Monday, February 29, 2016

Organizing a Playtest Group for my White Star Adventure

Scifi Jungle by Kaioshen of deviantart

I am pleased to announce that I finished writing the first draft of The Neutron Talisman, a White Star Compatible adventure.  I figured since my core group for various reasons can't commit to this, I can ask around interested communities and use my blog to shine the spotlight on my latest project.

This is the Looking for Group listing on Roll20.

The Neutron Talisman is an adventure suitable for 4 to 6 PCs of 1st to 3rd level.  The PCs are hired by a patron to see to the safe return of a research team who went missing in the ruins on an alien planet.  However, things are not as they seem as nefarious forces are intent on recovering the ruins' secrets for themselves.

It has a dungeon crawl format, but also city and wilderness hexcrawl part as well as post-dungeon encounters.

The game's over at Roll20, this Saturday March 5th at 6 PM EST. We'll be using voice chat.  Ideally I predict that the adventure length would take 1 long session or 2 average sessions.  I need at least 2 players; if we have 2 or 3 players we can have one or both play 2 PCs to meet the minimum qualifications.

As courtesy I'd like to ask ahead of time that when using voice chat to make sure your environs are not disruptively loud.  If you have a roommate who likes to curse out players on XBox Live, for example, that would be a problem.

If you're interested, leave a "looking to join" post in the linked section!

Monday, February 22, 2016

Krynn is Ready

In recent news Christopher Perkins responded to the possibility of reviving Dragonlance for 5th Edition, or more specifically what he saw as its most challenging aspect of a "one-story world."

It's not an uncommon thing I see floating around, and I understand the sentiment.  The Dragonlance Chronicles at the time had an overarching theme, that of a rag-tag group of adventuring friends taking on an evil empire and bringing the miracles of times long past.  Knowledge of the gods, healing magic, the mythic dragonlances, the overthrowing of Emperor Ariakas, the Dragonlance Chronicles brought the mood and feel of an epic fantasy to the Dungeons & Dragons ruleset when at the time most games centered around opportunistic dungeon-delvers.

The world of Dragonlance is quite iconic for the original adventure, but I disagree with the idea that it should begin and end with the original Chronicles.  Over on Twitter Cam Banks, an influential writer for many Dragonlance sourcebooks in the 3rd Edition days, created a #krynnready hashtag for fans to discuss their favorite aspects of the setting.  I contributed a bit, but as my strength is blogging and not 140 character limits, I sought to go more in-depth on why the world appeals to me so.

During the 3rd Edition era, Sovereign Press wrote the Key of Destiny, a three-part adventure path set in the Age of Mortals.  The Key of Destiny centered around the PCs coming upon an elven music box which was capable of unlocking a long-forgotten place.  Said place was the mythical Dragon's Graveyard, where the bodies and souls of the departed beasts of legend were carried.  Naturally, this made the Key of great value to many powerful people of Ansalon, who had less than pure intentions in its use.

Back in high school the Key of Destiny was my most played adventure path.  I used it as a testing ground for new players as I went from social circle to social circle in search of recruits to get together my first real gaming group.  There was lots of trial and error, but in the end I found several great players who I'm friends with to this very day.  It may not be the Chronicles, but it had all the hallmarks which made Dragonlance great: a world-saving adventure, tragedy and romance, background characters with motivations which echoed through the plot, a journey thousands of miles across a fantasy world, and dungeons with history behind them and legacies of prior eras such as cursed ruins and an undersea palace.

Beyond that, there was much more things to tinker with in Krynn's landscape.  The gaming sourcebook Legends of the Twins detailed the post-War of the Lance world and Raistlin's travel through time, but it also had one of my favorite and most-read chapters in any D&D sourcebook: Alternate Krynns.  Much like the Elseworlds concept of the DC Universe, Alternate Krynns took a look at six variant realities where things could have gone different in Dragonlance's history along with adventure seeds and material.

One detailed a world where Raistlin is effortlessly killing the gods and stealing their power, plunging the world into an apocalyptic chaos.  Another posits a reality where an unnatural winter befalls the continent of Ansalon and the ascendant Knights of Takhisis steal and corrupt dragonlances to turn to their own use.  Another suggested an international magocracy where the Wizards of High Sorcery rule the lands and politick against each other's Orders as an all-too-familiar sounding evil empire in the mountains builds up its forces to conquer the world.

Beyond that, Dragonlance spawned countless books, many of varying quality, as a dedicated fanbase built up around it.  Many bookworms entranced by the tales of Raistlin, Laurana, and the Heroes of the Lance never rolled a D20 in their lives, and in some cases were introduced to Dungeons & Dragons via these stories.

As of now Wizards of the Coast's publishing schedules focuses heavily on adventure series, the Forgotten Realms, and outsourcing work to the DM's Guild and trusted third party publishers.  But there's hints that it's trying to expand beyond just the table-top arena and into other forms of media.  As far as settings go, Dragonlance has a lot of qualities and yes, workable material beyond just the "one story" which will be appealing to both new blood and enhance its strengths in the non-tabletop realm.

Sunday, February 21, 2016

Homebrew OSR Class: the Witcher

Geralt of Rivia by AnubisDHL of Deviantart

Witchers are part of a declining order of monster-slayers who rely upon alchemical potions and enhanced physical abilities to perform their dangerous work.  Dedicated to safeguarding humanity from the creatures of the night, witchers are not trusted in all corners, and their taking in of young children to undergo extensive training and alterations gives rise to many dark rumors.

Requirements: STR 13 DEX 13 CON 13
Prime Requisite: STR and INT
Hit Dice: 1d8
Maximum Level: 10

Attacks: Witchers attack and save as fighters.

Experience: Witchers gain levels at a rate equal to that of elves (or the slowest-leveling class in your retroclone of choice).

Weapons and Armor: A witcher can use all weapons and leather armor.  They cannot wear armor heavier than leather or use shields, as this interferes with their preferred fighting style.

Silver Sword: A witcher begins play with a silver longsword.  This sword is ineffective against humans and demihumans and deals -1 damage vs. them.  However, it is effective against certain kinds of monsters such as werewolves.

Enhanced Biology: Witchers are immune to diseases (but not poison).

Witcher's Medallion: Each witcher bears a medallion shaped like a wolf's head which vibrates in the presence of monsters or ambient magic within 30'.  At the beginning of each day the witcher selects which phenomena to attune to their medallion.

Mixtures: Witchers are trained in the arts of alchemy, and with proper time and ingredients can prepare a variety of potions, bombs, and oils known as mixtures.  With this a witcher can overcome the resistances of monsters, enhance their own senses and fighting prowess, and create deadly explosions.

Mechanically speaking, mixtures are treated like spells for the purposes of preperation, casting, and dispelling purposes.  If another person is to benefit from a witcher's mixture (such as a potion or oil), they must be within touch range of the witcher.  They also need knowledge of the proper ingredients to create a mixture, which are most often gained by finding ingredient scrolls via adventuring (treat as magic scrolls for the purposes of treasure generation).

A witcher's unused mixtures last until the next day, after which they spoil and the witcher must prepare new ones.

Potions brewed by a witcher are helpful, albeit toxic when imbibed in excess.  A witcher may drink one potion per day for every three witcher levels* without any ill effects.  Every potion drunk after that forces the witcher to save vs. poison or immediately die.  Non-witchers must save vs. poison upon drinking a second potion within the same day or suffer the same fate.

*For example, a 9th-level Witcher may drink 3 potions and function normally.

Reaching 9th level: At 9th level a witcher may establish a stronghold or school dedicated to the housing and training of new initiates.  Once a base of operations is established, he'll attract 1d6 1st-level witchers who are loyal to him as long as he treats them fairly.

Witcher Mixtures Per Day

Witcher Level
1st lvl Mixture
2nd lvl Mixture
3rd lvl Mixture
4th lvl Mixture


Black Blood (Potion)
Level: 2nd
Duration: 8 hours
Range: Self or Touch

The imbiber's blood becomes poisonous to creatures who taste it.  Whenever a creature makes a bite attack against the imbiber, they must save vs. poison or take 4d6 points of damage.

Blizzard (Potion)
Level: 2nd
Duration: 1 round/level
Range: Self or Touch

Time seems to slow down around the imbiber, allowing them greater reaction time in battle.  They gain a +2 bonus on all to-hit rolls, -2 Armor Class (+2 if using ascending system), and +4 on saves versus breath attacks.

Brown Oil (Oil)
Level: 3rd
Duration: 8 hours
Range: Self or Touch

Any sharp or edged weapon coated with this oil leaves gaping wounds.  Opponents capable of bleeding suffer 1d6 points of damage 1 round after being struck, and 1d6 points of damage the round after that.  Multiple attacks with brown oil-coated weapons in the same round do not stack.

Cat (Potion)
Level: 1st
Duration: 8 hours
Range: Self or Touch

The imbiber gains infravision out to a range of 60' if they did not already possess the ability.  This has no effect on those who already have infravision.

De Vries' Extract (Potion)
Level: 4th
Duration: 1 hour
Range: Self or Touch

The imbiber gains infravision 60' if they did not have infravision, the ability to see invisible beings and objects, and can see through 5 feet of solid material.

Devil's Puffball (Bomb)
Level: 2nd
Duration: 3 rounds
Range: 30'

All within 10' of this bomb's explosion must save vs. poison or take 2d6 points of damage, then another 1d6 points the round after that.

Dragon's Dream (Bomb)
Level: 3rd
Duration: Instantaneous
Range: 30'

All within 10' of this bomb's explosion must save vs. breath attacks or take 1d6 points of fire damage per witcher level.

Golden Oriole (Potion)
Level: 2nd
Duration: 8 hours
Range: Self or Touch

The imbiber of this potion gains a +4 bonus on all saving throws against poisons.  Additionally, it cancels out the effects of any poisons already affecting them if drunk within a number of rounds equal to the witcher's level.

Grape Shot (Bomb)
Level: 1st
Duration: Instantaneous
Range: 30'

All within 10' of this bomb's explosion must save vs. breath attacks or take 1d8 points of damage.

Hanged Man's Venom (Oil)
Level: 1st
Duration: 8 hours
Range: Self or Touch

Any sharp or edged weapon coated with this oil deals 2 extra points of damage against humans, demihumans, and humanoids.

King and Queen (Bomb)
Level: 1st
Duration: 1 round
Range: 30'

All within 10' of this bomb's explosion must save vs. breath attacks or be overcome with fear for 1 round.  They'll do everything within their power to run as far away as possible, and barring that cower helplessly.

Necrophage Oil (Oil)
Level: 1st
Duration: 8 hours

Any sharp or edged weapon coated with this oil deals 1d6 extra points of damage against undead creatures.  This damage is capable of effecting undead with immunity to non-magic weapons, even if applied to a mundane weapon.

Ornithosaur Oil (Oil)
Level: 3rd
Duration: 8 hours

Any sharp or edged weapon coated with this oil deals 2d6 extra points of damage against reptilian creatures.  This damage is capable of effecting such monsters with immunity to non-magic weapons, even if applied to a mundane weapon.

Petri's Philter (Potion)
Level: 4th
Duration: 8 hours
Range: Self or Touch

The imbiber of this potion is able to conjure more effective spells.  Those making a saving throw against his spells suffer a -2 penalty on rolls.

Red Haze (Bomb)
Level: 4th
Duration: 1 round/level
Range: 30'

All within 10' of this bomb's explosion must save vs. breath weapon or attack and hinder their own allies for the duration of the spell.

Shrike (Potion)
Level: 4th
Duration: 8 hours
Range: Self or Touch

The imbiber of this potion emits an aura which causes great pain to those who try to engage them in melee.  Any creature within melee reach of him takes 1d6 points of damage per round.

Specter Oil (Oil)
Level: 2nd
Duration: 8 hours
Range: Self or Touch

Any sharp or edged weapon coated with this oil is capable of harming incorporeal opponents such as ghosts.  This damage is capable of effecting incorporeal monsters with immunity to non-magic weapons, even if applied to a mundane weapon.

Swallow (Potion)
Level: 1st
Duration: 10 rounds
Range: Self or Touch

The imbiber of this potion heals one hit point per round.

Thunderbolt (Potion)
Level: 3rd
Duration: 8 hours
Range: Self or Touch

The imbiber of this potion is capable of inflicting great wounds in combat, adding +5 on all damage rolls with weapons.  However, their increased aggression causes them to be careless with their defenses, suffering a +4 penalty to their Armor Class (or -4 if using the ascending system).

Willow (Potion)
Level: 2nd
Duration: 8 hours
Range: Self or Touch

The imbiber of this potion becomes remarkably resilient towards effect which would immobilize or stun him, gaining a +4 bonus on saving throws versus petrification or paralysis.

Zerrikanian Sun (Bomb)
Level: 3rd
Duration: 1 round
Range: 30'

All within 10' of this bomb's explosion must save vs. breath weapon or be blinded for one round.

Today I found the most potentially broken PC race in a Pathfinder product

Nilbog Illustration from Tome of Horrors Complete

So I was browsing through the Tome of Horrors Complete one day, and opened up to the entry about nilbogs.  Originally from AD&D's Fiend Folio, nilbogs were a gimmick monster to throw at the party due to a peculiar defense.  Possessing a disease wrought by magic warping the space-time continuum, nilbogs actually 'heal' damage instead of being harmed by it.  And curative magic damages them instead.  Beyond that, they also emit a continual 20 foot radius aura which forces people to roll a Will save or become confused.  The damage-reversal is an extraordinary ability, meaning it continues to function even in an anti-magic field or hit with dispel magic.

Now granted, as a monster this is a rather neat encounter in that their weakness is a rather common part of party arsenals (healing magic), but in the hands of a player a nilbog PC would be immune to over 99% of damage-dealing things in the game.

Lo and behold, there are rules for them as PC race, keeping their trademark defensive capabilities.  Monster PCs have been a rather attractive option in certain gaming circles, and there was a demand for it among D20 players.  It became common in various 'monster manuals' both first and third party to include an "as characters" entry especially for humanoid ones, although in this case this is probably not an option most sane GMs would allow at their table.

Quoted Text for effects:

Damage Reversal (Ex) When struck by any attack that would normally damage the nilbog, it actually gains hit points equal to the damage the attack would have otherwise dealt. A nilbog gains any extra hit points above its normal total as temporary hit points, though it can never have more than twice its normal hit points. (Excess hit points are simply lost.). The nilbog can only be damaged through the use of curative magic and effects (cure light wounds and healing potions, for instance). Curative magic deals damage equal to the amount it would normally heal.

Spatio-Temporal Reversal (Ex) A nilbog constantly emanates an aura of confusion in a 20-foot-radius. A creature in the area must succeed on a DC 11 Will save or be affected as if by a confusion spell (caster level 4th). The save DC is Constitution-based.

Quoted Text for nilbogs as Characters:

Nilbogs as Characters

Nilbogs are defined by class levels—they do not possess racial Hit Dice. Nilbogs have the following racial traits.

–2 Strength, +2 Dexterity, –2 Charisma. Nilbogs are quick but weak and ugly.

Small: Nilbogs are Small creatures and gain a +1 size bonus to their AC, a +1 bonus on attack rolls, a –1 penalty to their CMB and CMD, and a +4 size bonus on Stealth checks.

Fast: Nilbogs are fast for their size, and have a base speed of 30 feet. Darkvision: Nilbogs can see in the dark up to 60 feet.

Skilled: +4 racial bonus on Stealth checks.

Special Attacks: Spatio-temporal reversal (see above)

Special Defenses: Damage reversal (see above)

Languages: Goblins begin play speaking Goblin. Goblins with high Intelligence scores can choose any of these bonus languages: Common, Draconic, Dwarven, Gnoll, Gnome, Halfling, Orc.

Disclaimer: Unbalanced choices are a dime a dozen in third party products (and rather common in Paizo books as well), but what made this one interesting in that it's based off of an official monster from an earlier edition, and being in the Tome of Horrors which is a very well-known and regarded book in the community.  I can't see any Game Master in their right mind allowing this as a PC race, but overall the book it came from is a pretty good resource for your games.

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Thoughts & Questions about White Star

Official artwork for Phantasy Star I

As of a few weeks ago I desired to run/play in Shadows of the Demon Lord, Numenera, Eclipse Phase, and Dungeon World.  Now, White Star has grown to belong to this list of games.  My enthusiasm grew as I checked out the veritable assortment of third party material for it.  In a way it's like Pathfinder; it's an interesting enough game by itself, but the community support adds so many new ideas to go through for one's games.

All the same, I'd be eager to participate in or run such a game if I ever get more free time on my gaming schedule, but before then I have some questions and potential pitfalls I'd like to hear from those experienced with the system, and what if any house rules you used to address these features:

1. How specialized is the Pilot PC class?  Clearly all their signature features pertain to starship combat, but in a groundbound adventure would they feel useless or struggle to contribute?  I worry that the Pilot might be the sci-fi equivalent of a D&D Paladin, where the mold of the party needs to accomodate the PC in order to have fun, for not all adventuring parties are suitable to have a Lawful Good crusader.  A suggestion I heard was adapting the Pilot class' talents to apply to vehicles in general, such as hover-cars, mechas, and the like.

2. The Star Knight is very much modeled on the archetype of the Jedi, what with their signature weapon and supernatural abilities.  For that reason I imagine them to be a popular class, but there's a common problem in RPGs of melee-focused characters and weapons in a setting where guns are commonplace.

In the Star Wars RPGs Jedi made up for this by being able to deflect blaster shots, making them veritable foes without being sitting ducks.  However, the Star Knight Meditation to gain ranged weapon immunity (Protection from Missiles) is a 3rd level "spell," so it's not accessible right off the bat.  At low levels I feel that the Star Knight will be at a disadvantage unless they use a laser pistol as their main weapon, or by making laser weapons a rarity in the setting.

3. White Star's strongly modeled off the White Box ruleset, and as such inherits its legacies, including the lethality of low levels.  Starting 1st-level PCs are very frail with their 1 Hit Dice, and the damage values of modern armaments such as frag grenades and laser pistols (which have a Rate of Fire of 2) are very well capable of downing a character in one shot.

What would be the suggested level in starting out at a more "heroic" theme, where space opera protagonists are capable of holding their own against a squad of Stormtroopers/Klingons/faceless goons?  I was thinking that 3rd level would be a good buffer zone, where a party of 3 to 6 PCs have enough staying power to weather a storm of blaster fire even if they get some unlucky rolls.

4. Finally, is there anyone here planning on running a White Star game open to new members?  I'm afraid that for the moment I'm booked on the GMing side of things, but I'd love to try this system out for myself!  My preferred avenue is Roll20, although I'm not averse to Google Hangouts (I never used it before, but am open to learning).

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

A Comprehensive List of White Star Products

So back on last week's chat at Tenkar's Tavern, I inquired into the amount of White Star-compatible material floating around out there, and James Spahn estimated the current number to be around around 50.  This took me by surprise; I understand that the game's a very popular one, but until then my recollection only included about 8 or 10 products, given how ones such as Five Year Mission and Star Sailors stood out so strongly in my mind.

I took a look around OneBookshelf, and found that 50 isn't much of an exaggeration; 53 if we include the official Barrel Rider Games books.  There's a lot of material out there for the game, but as there's no "White Star" tag it's harder to find them except under related purchases.  Still, I combed through the catalog to find some books, and snagged a couple on the way.  Below is a list of compatible products I found so far on OneBookShelf, along with hyperlinks.

For the purposes of this list I'm not including OSR sourcebooks with a sci-fi flair in general, but rather ones who specifically call themselves out as being compatible with the White Star RPG. I'm continually updating this page as more releases come out, so check back here every month or so to see if anything new hit the digital shelves.

Barrel Rider Games:

Brimling: Halflings in Space!

Combat Medic: a support-focused healer class.

Uttin: new alien techno-scavenger class.

White Star Companion [Swords & Wizardry]: an expansion book for the core game.

Blue Max Studios:

Ships of the Galaxy: the Monarch Courier: new maps, adventure seeds, and a starship.

Species Spotlight: Abhorrans: three alternative viewpoints for a new antagonistic alien race.

Species Spotlight: Myrmidoni: new warlike alien race.

Creation's Edge Games:

Some Miner Trouble: a mini-adventure set around exploring an asteroid mine.

W1: Peril at the Pod Auction- A Sci-Fi RPG Mini-Adventure: a mini-adventure set around sealed dangerous pods for sale.

W2: Twelve Easy Parsecs- A Sci-Fi RPG Mini-Adventure: a mini-adventure set around a company looking for pilots to test their experimental new starship.

W3; Revolt at the Spire- A Sci-Fi RPG Mini-Adventure: a mini-adventure set around delivering a priceless instrument to a resort world.


Event Horizon- A White Star Adventure: a lowl-level horror-themed adventure.

DIY RPG Productions:

The Starrunner Kit: a Sci-Fi Space Toolkit: rules supplement full of new classes, equipment, mechs, adventure generation.

DM Studios:

Space Cede: adventure where the PCs are helping a prison transport, and a new Officer class.

Star Temple of Saturgalia: mini-adventure centered around an abandoned Star Knight temple.

DwD Studios:

Hyperspace Messenger 01-Stunners: Rules for nonlethal combat.

Hyperspace Messenger 02-Robots: New robot NPCs and 'creatures.'

Hyperspace Messenger 03-Aliens: New alien generation via die-based tables.

Hyperspace Messenger 04-Skills: Alternate rule for adding a skill system into White Star.

Hyperspace Messenger 05-Vehicles: 15 new vehicles, rules for haggling and buying/selling cargo.

Hyperspace Messenger 06-Cyberware: New rules and equipment for cybernetic implants.

Hyperspace Messenger Compendium: An 80 page softcover book of the previous 6 products plus star systems.

DYS Games:

Between Star & Void: Sourcebook expansion for Star Knights and Void Knights.

Psionics: A new class and psionics system for Swords & Wizardry and White Star.

Psionics II: Warriors of the Mind: Further expansion on psionics with new classes, alien races, and Wild Talents.

Relics of the Akashics: new equipment and material based on an ancient star-spanning empire.

Tools of the Worldbuilders: New campaign and world-building centric rules for White Star.

Genius Loci Games:

Amazons of Valsuum: a planetary romance Swords & Sandal adventure and setting

Gods of Air & Water: Introduction for a pulp-flavored sci-fi setting and adventure.

InfiniBadger Press:

The Graveyard at Lus: a comprehensive sourcebook on exploring and generating ship graveyards, along with new alien races, technology, and hexmaps.

The Graveyard at Lus Expansion 1: a cross-reference for starships and a new alien race.

The White Star Catalog: a free promotional publication highlighting White Star-compatible books.

Ivanhoe Unbound:

Five Year Mission: a sourcebook heavily inspired by the Star Trek universe.

The Rocker: a galactic musical celebrity class.

Leviathan Publishing:

Drongo: Planet of Peril: a campaign setting planet.

Planetary Transmission Issue #1: fanzine full of new content for White Star.

Planetary Transmission Issue #2: fanzine full of new content for White Star.

Ships of Shade Space: New ship sourcebook.

Magic Pig Media:

Have Death Ray, Will Travel: a retro-future setting inspired by pulp comics and early-20th century sci-fi.

Outer Space Raiders: the Norni: nomadic alien racial classes for White Star.

Outer Space Raiders: Space Amazons: warrior-alien racial classes for White Star.

Outer Space Raiders: Zeloxians: bureaucracy-obsessed alien racial classes and equipment for White Star.

Outer Space Raiders Vol. 1: Classes: Six new classes.

Stark Space: a cyberpunk-themed sourcebook.

Middle Kingdoms Adventure & Trading Co:

Heart of Darkness: a dungeon crawl taking place in an abandoned starship.

Mystic Bull Games:

Galaxy War 1939- Legacy of the Oros: a WWII-themed science fiction adventure.

Northern Edge Publishing:

High Tech Vehicles: 14 new vehicles and vehicle-centric weapons and equipment.

Okumarts Games:

The Other Side Publishing:

Sisters of the Aquarian Order: class sourcebook for an order of women space mystics.

Poor Referee's Press

The Space Monkey Player Character: a humorous class where you play as an intelligence simian.

Quasar Knight Enterprises:

Old School Scifi: the Hacker Class: a Vancian-themed computer genius class with new equipment and sample "skill" systems.

Sleeping Griffon Productions:

Distress Signal Tundara- A SciFi Extended Encounter: mini-adventure taking place in a dangerous cargo ship.

Mail Call- A SciFi Extended Encounter: a mini-adventure centered around the PCs part of a courier service gone wrong.

Small Niche Games:

Star Gods Help Us: a humor-themed sourcebook full of new alien races.

WBO04: Stuck on Etholk: a low-level adventure where the PCs are stranded on a dangerous planet.

WBO05: True Night Life: a low-level adventure centered around a robot demolition derby at a nightclub.

Stellagama Publishing:

Cheating Death: new rules for dodging death, from cybernetic conversion and biological reconstruction.

Scum & Villainy: a criminal-centric sourcebook.

Zeta and Tuko: Two new playable alien classes, along with new equipment and psionics rules.

Thunderegg Productions:

Assimilant Menace! a sourcebook expanding on the Assimilant aliens from the White Star rulebook.

Galactic Ship Ops: a more in-depth system for creating and playing with starships.

OSR Enemy & Mission Generator: a free one-page supplement for creating adventure material.

OSR Sci-Fi GM Screen: an easily accessible collection of printer-friendly image covers and tables.

Sunday, February 7, 2016

The (N)PC Dump: Voldis Sambel

 Naal'suul by Blackmyst of Studio Drowtales

You ever get that onslaught of inspiration for a new character idea you really want to play in an RPG, but don't want to give up the PC you already have?  Maybe you have a cool wookie martial artist concept, but nobody in your regular gaming group wants to play Star Wars.  Sometimes your concept sits around for weeks or months, waiting for that day you spring it into the world.

Well, I decided that if I can't play them immediately, I can always blog about them.  Even better, they may provide some inspiration for your own games!  This child necromancer is but the first of many I have cooking in the ol' skull meat.

The Character: Voldis Sambel

Backstory: Voldis Sambel grew up in a drow enclave as the daughter of a priestess.  Unlike her mother she expressed a strong interest in the arcane arts, although even then her maternal influence edged her towards a more spiritualistic approach.  She gained a deep interest in necromancy, but unlike many of her peers she grew to view the undead much like the living.  Not as automatons to control, but as potential friends and allies.  Perhaps due to this, sentient undead are more likely to enter bargains with her, much to the consternation of her more traditionalist peers in the field.

One day a vindictive rival sought Voldis' demise, where she surely would've joined her undead compatriots beyond the veil were it not for them guiding her to safety.  Now she is far from home yet not alone, with a ghostly guardian watching over her.

Role-Playing Tips: You are still a child (11 to 13 years old in elf years), so you don't have as nuanced a view on the world as adult adventurers do.  Your magical tradition has oddities which seem normal to you, but creepy to most people: carry around a skull to talk to as though it were an old friend; visit graves at night to leave treats and similar things you think the dearly departed liked in life at their gravestones.  Death is still a sad affair, but it doesn't faze you as much as it does others due to the fact that reuniting with those you love is but one spell away.

Adventure Hooks:

A door in a necropolis remains warded, containing great treasure.  It only opens by the command of a long-dead warlord, whose spirit was last said to be accompanying a dark elf child.

Professor Rodurn of Highstone Academy has a 1,000 gold piece wager for an enterprising mage to prove to him that the necromantic arts can be utilized in a non-coercive fashion.  Many common folk and mages believe this to be impossible, but there's rumors of an obscure tradition known as white necromancy.  Perhaps bringing back one of these spellcasters in the flesh might be all the proof needed to get that prize.

A particularly dangerous specter haunts the forbidden wing of the king's castle.  Voldis is accused of summoning it and being held in the royal dungeons.  The PCs are called in to handle the specter, but as time goes on it becomes apparent that the drow girl is not the culprit.

System Information: Voldis is a drow and almost definitely a spellcaster.  I originally had a Pathfinder game for her in mind, and the White Necromancer by Kobold Press was a major inspiration.  As spells in 5th Edition aren't restricted by alignment, a Wizard with the Necromancer specialty can work for her as well with some reflavoring.  A Necromancer with the Redeemer talent from 13th Age also matches well thematically.  For an OSR game, the Necromancer subclass from Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea is appropriate both mechanically and thematically.

Swords & Wizardry Stat Block

Voldis Sambel; HD 4; AC 6 [13]; Attacks dagger/hand crossbow (1d3); Saves 14; Special: Summon the Departed; MV 12; AL N; CL/XP 4/120

Summon the Departed: Twice per day, Voldis can call forth a spectral entity from beyond the veil.  Treat this as a 1 hit die skeleton or zombie.

Pathfinder Stat Block

Voldis Sambel CR 2 
XP  600
Female Young Drow White Necromancer 4
N Small Humanoid (Elf)
Init +7; Senses darkvision 120 feet; Perception +2


AC  14 (+1 size, +3 dex); Touch 14; Flat-Footed 11;
HP 7 (4d6-8)
Fort -1; Ref +4; Will +4
Defensive Abilities ; Immune sleep; Resist +2 vs. enchantment; SR 10


Speed 30 feet
Space 5 ft; Reach 5 ft
Melee dagger +3 (1d3-2, 19-20/x2)
Ranged hand crossbow +7 (1d3, 19-20/x2)
Ranged ray spell +6 (varies)
Spell-Like Abilities (CL 4th): dancing lights, darkness, faerie fire 1/day each
Spells Known (CL 4th):

2nd (4/day)—Lesser Animate Dead
1st (7/day)—Cure Light Wounds, Mage Armor, Sanctify Corpse
0    (at will)—Detect Magic, Detect Poison, Guidance, Mending, Ray of Frost, Touch of Fatigue


Str 6 , Dex 16, Con 7, Int 12, Wis 11, Cha 16
Base Atk +2; CMB -1; CMD 9
Feats Eschew Materials (B), Improved Initiative, Spell Focus (Necromancy), Turn Undead (B)
Skills Diplomacy 3 (+6), Heal 3 (+8), Knowledge (Arcana, Religion) 2 (+6), Perception 0 (+2), Spellcraft 2 (+6); Racial Modifiers +2 Perception
Languages Common, Elven, Undercommon
SQ Light Blindness, Lore of Life and Death (+2 Heal), Poison Use, Power Over Undead (Channel Energy 4/day), Rebuke Death (1d4+2 hp 6/day), Weapon Familiarity (hand crossbow, rapier, short sword), White Necromancy
Combat Gear 2 Potions of Cure Light Wounds, masterwork hand crossbow, dagger
Other Gear 60 gold pieces, 50 feet of silk rope

Talking about Dungeonesque and other OGL 5E Stuff

Disclaimer: as of right now I don't own any third party 5th Edition books.  Rather, I'm using this post to highlight ones which have interesting concepts and stand out from the crowd in some way.

So one of the major pieces to come out of 5th Edition's SRD release is the announcement of an old-school "red box" RPG called Dungeonesque.  The principal idea is to use 5th Edition's mechanical framework, but reworked in places to promote a mood and play-style of earlier times.

And it's got quite some positive attention already.  According to the game's author in this ENWorld article, Frank Mentzer already lent his support to the project.

I attest that although I read a fair bit of 5E's Player's Handbook, I don't know how seamlessly it actually fits into an OSR framework mechanics-wise; I heard that it does well in regards to an implied DMing style, though.  Regarding Dungeonesque specifically, it seems to have elements which weren't present in Red Box D&D, such as hit location rules and a 1st Edition to 5th Edition conversion.  All the same, the project interests me primarily because I want to see how the author pulls it off in the end result.

However, things like Dungeonesque seem to be rather rare right now among 3rd party 5th Edition products.  It's only been a month or so since the SRD came out, but already there's a lot of material on Drive-Thru RPG and DM's Guild.  Many of them are PWYW conversions of older books or homebrew mini-sourcebooks detailing new individual classes, races, equipment, and such.  Quite a bit are of mixed or dubious quality if the reviews are anything to go by.

Hopefully as time goes on things will balance out, but as of now things are a lot like 3rd Edition/Pathfinder's Open Gaming publishers.  Too much material to sift through for any one person, and not enough eye-grabbing titles to stand out from the crowd.  For this reason, I plan to highlight some interesting books out already.  As of now most of the ones I saw are already made by established publishers with a good track record.  If you have any to share, be sure to comment!

Midgard Heroes & Southlands Heroes for 5th Edition: Two Kobold Press sourcebooks detailing how to convert their keystone settings to 5th Edition, with sample races and backgrounds.  The publisher also converted several of its Pathfinder material into 5th Edition as well.

Book of Heroic Races: Player Races 1: A Jon Brazer Enterprises book of exotic races, many originating as PC options from Pathfinder, converted to 5th Edition.

Depths of Felk Mor: A Sacrosanct Games megadungeon emphasizing an old-school style of play.

Gauntlet of Spiragos: A free adventure by Onyx Path.  Represents a taste of things to come for their revived Scarred Lands campaign setting, a notable 3rd Edition world torn asunder by battles between gods and titans.

The Wizard's Amulet: A free introductory adventure by Frog God Games.  Takes place in the Lost Lands campaign setting.

Shadowed Eye of Halagar: a high-level dungeon and wilderness crawl centering around a greedy dragon with great ambitions.

Primeval Thule 5e Campaign Setting: A Conanesque sword and sorcery setting with some neat innovations such as living glaciers with malign intellects, a collapsing elven society ravaged by lotus drugs concocted by Nyarlathotep's devotees, and clerics who gain their powers from initiation into mystery cults rather than direct connection to the divine.

SRD 5E Italy: An Italian translation of the SRD.

Edit: Forgot to mention that Frog God Games has some 5E-compatible works on their own storefront, such as Book of Lost Spells and Fifth Edition Foes.

Saturday, February 6, 2016

Interesting 3rd Party Finds: the Expendable Class [Five Year Mission]

So recently I got interested in White Star, a science fiction retro-clone based off of 1974 version of Dungeons & Dragons.  It's been a popular game for nearly a year now in the OSR, and spawned a lot of compatible third party support.  At a whim I snagged up several of them, one of which is Five Year Mission, deriving heavy influence from you guessed it, Star Trek.

Many of the new classes are geared towards archetypes from the show, but the one which stands out most to me is the Expendables class.  You might find it an odd choice to have red shirts as a playable option when you have ones geared towards specialized important roles such as pilot, engineer, guerilla, and so forth.  But the interesting thing about Expendables is that the player who chooses this class controls multiple characters.

Basically, at any one time there are two Expendables in play, with the rest being controlled by the GM and assumed to be off-duty or awaiting orders back at home base.  They all share the same experience points, hit point totals, and game stats, although conditions "in the field" like lost equipment and damage is tracked separately.  When an Expendable dies or is permanently disabled, another one comes into play at the earliest opportunity which makes sense for the plot.  However, PC "death" is still possible if too many die in a short amount of time as they run out of troops.

Beyond just being easily replaceable, Expendables can buy equipment at a 2 for 1 rate at character creation and are capable of taking a blow for others by interposing themselves between an ally and impending attack as a reaction to said attack.

They remind me a lot about the concept for Hirelings, except that they're directly PC-controlled and thus don't have things like morale checks to worry about.  I like the idea, although I get the feeling it would be a hard sale to many players, especially given the fact that it may be a less attractive option than picking an individual named character with the special abilities of other classes.  And in games which have a heavy amount of role-playing and character development (a likelier scenario as PCs climb the levels), it may feel odd to not have a single person to control in the event especially when said Expendables may very well die unceremoniously.  Still, you don't have to worry as much about character death, and having 2 PCs at once can be a viable option at low levels when things are overall deadly regardless of character class.

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Interesting 3rd Party Finds: the Portalist Base Class

I figure that quite a few readers here are familiar with the work of Frog God Games.  Albeit their writers are famed for publishing old classes such as the Rappan Athuk megadungeon and Tome of Horrors, they're still making large projects such as the Sword of Air sandbox adventure and the Northlands Saga Complete adventure path.  Most of their books, be they Pathfinder, old-school, or 5th Edition-compatible, can be found on most major online stores.  However, there are some more or less exclusive to, and one of them's interesting enough that I wanted to show it off to folks.

The Portalist is a new base class themed around a warrior who utilizes extradimensional holes in reality for increased mobility and offensive capabilities.  It's implied that this supernatural talent is a learned ability accessed via research into the foundations of the planar fabric of various worlds.  The ability to create portals is a limited per-day ability and initially comes with restrictions regarding the amount that can be created, their total distance between each other, etc.  However, a Portalist can learn new Portal Tricks as they gain levels, either extending the base abilities of portals (such as maximum range) or granting new uses entirely.  The variety on display is quite versatile; they include such things as opening portals in the nick of time to avoid a deadly attack, creating a connection to an Elemental Plane to shower enemies with deadly energy, or even passing through other planes to gain temporary benefits like etherealness.

The class seems like it would be really fun to play especially in combat, and its mobility can lend itself to some out-combat uses.  However, at low levels the Portalist doesn't have a lot of opportunities to use their signature ability willy-nilly (ranging from 1 to 12 over 20 levels), and doesn't increase much over the levels unless you spend feats to gain bonus uses.  Its skill selection is adequate if not exactly robust; they gain two Knowledges, Perception, Stealth, Use Magic Device, but the rest of them tend to be physical-related.

Beyond the class itself are some new related feats, two magic items, and sample portalist-themed organizations to add to your campaign which have material benefits for joining them in extra uses of the group's favored Portal Tricks.  There's a new skill use for Acrobatics for Portalists to teleport on top of larger opponents in an area they'll have trouble reaching.  If done right this can make the opponent unable to attack them at all with certain melee attacks (a giant spider being unable to bite something riding atop its back).

Overall, I'd judge the Portalist as a good Tier 4 if using JaronK's Tier System for Classes.  The portal tricks really help the class move about the battlefield and pull off neat combat tricks, but its low amount of skills, restricted uses per day, and proficiency only with melee weapons make it less versatile than most spellcasters and martial adept classes (Tome of Battle, Path of War).