Jun 30, 2015

Guardians - Brawling

Countdown to Guardians. In a super powered roleplaying game sometimes hand to hand unarmed combat is an inevitable situation.

One of the weakness of the original edition, which has been the case of all the editions after is unarmed combat. From its wargaming roots which relied on a certain troop type vs. armored foes grappling and unarmed combat hasn't fit into a simple and intuitive system. There have been multiple attempts, a few of which I'm very fond of like in Dragon magazine #83 which had a very good article by Roger Moore "How to finish fights faster" that went a long ways in improving grappling and unarmed combat.

Within the OSR blogosphere I really liked the grappling rules by Douglas Cole and Peter V. Dell'Orto in The Manor Issue #8. We got permission from them to incorporate their grappling rules into Guardians. As we edited, playtested, and refined the rules what we ended up with were something best described as "inspired by" however we want to give full credit to Douglas and Peter for there excellent unarmed combat rules.

Supers often get into wrestling matches. Instead of treating wrestling as an unarmed combat attack that inflicts hit point damage these advanced rules can be used.

A grapple is a melee attack like any other. Roll 1d20, with usual strength Basic Ability Modifier. If you hit, you grappled your opponent. Grappling attacks may be substituted for any appropriate attack one-for-one. Unstoppable (if applicable) may be used.

After hitting simply roll damage . . . but all grappling damage is tallied in “Control Points” (CP), not actual hit points lost. Control Point damage is recovered immediately once the attacker lets go (whether willingly or not), not at the usual healing rate.

Humans and humanoids do 1d6 CP, plus or minus the usual Strength modifier. For monsters, a grappling attack does the same damage as the base attack being used.
The effects suffered when grappled depend on how many CP have been inflicted on you relative to your HP.

Grappling Effect Table

After the Grapple
Once you’ve grabbed a foe, you can develop or discard the grapple.
Attacking: You can attack to try to get more CP. Roll to hit normally. If you succeed, roll for CP and add them to the current total. Grappling is cumulative. You can also attack normally with a weapon at no penalty, unless grappled back!

Counter-Grappling: You can always grab a foe back! Attack normally and if you hit, roll for CP: though both the to-hit and damage roll may be penalized due to the grapple on n you! You may apply rolled CP to either put CP on your opponent, or reduce the CP your opponent has on you. If the latter, any excess applies as CP to your opponent.

Injury: You can attempt to convert your CP to damage. Roll to hit normally for grappling. Instead of inflicting more CP, you may convert your CP to damage: 2 CP turn into 1 HP of “real” damage. However, once you use them for damage, they’re gone.

Let Go: You can always Let Go as a free action on your turn. You don’t need to hold on.

Throw: If you amassed at least half your foe’s HP in CP, you may spend CP to attempt to throw them to the ground. First “spend” accumulated CP equal to half the foe’s hit points (round up) to attempt the move. Then roll to hit normally, using the new AC penalty, not the old one. If successful, your foe is stunned for 1d4 turns and takes 1d4 + Strength modifier damage.

Grab Item: If you amassed more CP than 1/2 the wielder’s current HP, you can try to grab it. Roll to hit vs. the foe’s armor class as usual. If you succeed, you take it.
If the super has a Mental Attack it can be given a different attack mode such as Aura, Bolt, Continuous, Sword (or other melee weapon), or Touch.

Guardians - Super-Agent!

Countdown to Guardians continues with a preview of the Super-Agent class.

Super-Agents are those who overcome challenges through agility, cunning, and stealth, but are good combatants as well, often specializing in weapons or martial arts rather than raw use of powers or physical brawling. This class will often include spies, ninja, cat burglars, elite special ops soldiers, assassins, archers, scouts, and hunters. Although super-agents are a common choice for humans and exotics, their ranks will also include many power-using heroes. Super-agent is a very good choice for those whose powers lend themselves to stealth or warfare.

Super-Agent level & XP progression is similar to Thief.

Dexterity is an important ability for Super-Agents, those with 13 or higher in the score receive a +5% bonus to all experience earned.

Super-Agents roll 1d10 for each Hit Die. They get 3 HD at first level, and one extra die for every additional level, up to a maximum of 12 HD at 10th level.

Super-Agents get a New Power or Gift at 3rd level and every two levels thereafter. A Human gets a 

Gift or may add +1 to any three ability scores. Characters with other Origins may choose to receive either a Power or a Gift, or ability increase

Super-Agents may use the following special abilities:

Weapon and Armor Use: Super-Agents may use any weapons or armor. All super-agents have some hand-to-hand training and do d4 instead of 1d3 with a punch.

Surprise Attack: A Super-Agent who successfully sneaks up on, surprises, or distracts an enemy receives a bonus of +4 to-hit, and does double the normal damage. 

Dark Fighting: Even if they have no ability to see in the dark, a Super-Agent suffers half normal penalties (usually -2) when fighting in any degree of darkness, even if it’s pitch black or a Darkness power. This also applies when fighting an Invisible opponent.

Skill: Super-Agents have a knack for achieving unlikely results when it comes to things like acrobatics, hacking computers, picking locks, sneaking past or distracting guards, disarming small or intricate traps or alarms, bluffing at gambling, moving silently, maneuvering vehicles, and performing athletic feats in unusual environments (skiing, scuba diving, mountain climbing, etc.). The referee may require an appropriate skill throw to achieve a result that is highly cinematic, while often allowing automatic success otherwise.

Combat Specialization: He or she gets one (two if human or exotic) of these combat specialties. An additional one is added at level 4 and at level 8.

Archer: +2 to hit and damage when attacking with any archaic bow, crossbow, or slingshot, and when using these weapons get the bruiser’s Unstoppable ability.

Flinger: a +2 to hit and damage when attacking with any archaic thrown weapon (knife, shuriken, etc.) and when using these weapons get the bruiser’s Unstoppable ability.

Swashbuckler: +1 to hit-and-damage with any archaic melee weapon like swords or clubs, or when fighting unarmed, and whilst attacking with them gain the bruiser’s Unstoppable ability.

Gunslinger: +1 to-hit and damage when using any firearms or ranged attacks that do damage and are built into handheld gadgets. When attacking with an auto pistol or revolver only, also gain the bruiser’s Unstoppable ability.

Martial Artist: When attacking unarmed (punch, kick, etc.) may add +1 to hit, inflict 1d6 instead of the usual 1d4 damage, and gain the bruiser’s Unstoppable ability. If free to move and not wearing armor, improve Armor Class by 2.

Assassin: Increases damage bonus of Surprise Attack from x2 to x3.
A human or exotic super-agent can take the same specialization TWICE if desired. This doubles the to-hit, damage (or damage bonus) and armor class increase of the character’s chosen combat specialty. Append the word “Super” to the specialization. Thus a human or exotic “Super Martial Artist” fighting unarmed does 2d6 damage, is +2 to hit, and improves Armor Class by 4 when unarmored.

Jun 29, 2015

Guardians - Super Clobber!

The Bruiser Class

Another Guardians preview as the countdown to release continues.

Many heroes and villains are Bruisers who excel at battling their opponents and taking punishment without flinching. Although many bruisers rely on hand-to-hand combat, this class is also suitable for supers who use a mix of close and ranged attacks, as well as flyers and speedsters. Strength is an important ability for Bruisers and those with a Strength of 13 or better receive a 5% bonus to all experience earned.

Bruiser progression looks somewhat similar to a classic Fighter. In addition Bruisers get these class abilities:

  • Bruisers roll 1d12 for each Hit Die to determine their hit points. They get 3 HD at first level, and roll one extra die every additional level, up to a maximum of 12 HD at 10th level.
  • A bruiser does 1d6 instead of 1d3 when attacking with fists or other blunt body parts.
  • A Bruiser gets a New Power or Gift every 2nd level. Human and exotic bruisers may only add new gifts.
  • Bruisers may utilize two class abilities.
  • Bruiser Class Abilities
  • Unstoppable: A bruiser incapacitates a foe (reduces them to zero or fewer HP) with a successful attack receives an immediate free attack against another enemy within reach (or range, if using a ranged attack). This does not apply if using attacks or powers that do not require a roll to hit and affect an area. 

Combat Specialty: Bruisers may select one Combat Specialty from the list given below; a human or exotic get two due to having super-training instead of powers. The specialties are:

Acrobatic: The character’s fluid fighting style improves his or her Armor Class by two, as long as the character is unarmored (except for any armor built into gadgets) and free to move about.

Brawler: The character’s ability to give or take a pounding gives DR 2 damage reduction.

Berserk: The character fights with a barely contained battle fury. In any highly stressful situation (referee’s discretion) the character may go berserk and attack enemies or obstacles with an insane rage. To avoid this roll a Charisma saving throw at -4. Otherwise, the berserker must charge toward or attack the enemy or obstacle in melee each turn and cannot retreat, surrender, used ranged attacks, or talk coherently until it’s defeated! It costs 1 energy point per round to rage. The berserker cannot stop until the fighting ends or he or she is out of energy! While berserk add +3 to Strength but Armor Class worsens by 2.

Weapon Wielder: A Bruiser does not usually fight with weapons or use a shield, but with this combat specialty the bruiser may freely carry and use ONE specified weapon e.g., a hammer, whip, sword, shield, etc. Thus, a bruiser could have Weapon Wielder (Hammer). They receive a +1 to hit and damage with this weapon.

Weapons and Armor: With the exception of powers built into their own gadgets, a bruiser may not wield weapons or use shields unless they have the Weapon Wielder ability and may not wear ordinary armor.

A character may opt to take an additional combat specialty in lieu of a new power or gift.

Jun 18, 2015

Guardians - Character Creation

What is more important to a Supers RPG than character creation? The first big question to answer was do we make it a point-buy system or random generation or something else? As development proceeded it became quickly clear that we did not want to do a point system. They too often end up complicated, fiddly, number-crunchy, and cater to the worst aspects of munchkinism. Also, that just wouldn't honor the tradition of the original edition.

So character creation does do random ability generation: straight 3d6, and then your Origins and Class would modify the results. Well, your die results will aid you in choosing the best character type to play.

How to boil down the huge variety of possible supers into a simple class-based system? The solution to this came about surprisingly well, and is part of the system I am happiest with how it came out. First you choose an origin. This can be Human, Exotic, Mutant, Robot, Cyborg, Super Alien, Supernatural, or Superhuman.

The next component to your character is Class. This can be Bruiser, Super-Agent, Power-Weilder, and Gadgeteer. Fighter is included as an NPC class to be used for military, para-military, mooks, or police force units.

I'll get into the Classes in another post. For now I want to focus on what the Origins are. In order to explain the differentiation of various Origins I have to talk briefly about how superpowers are handled. There are Gifts like wealth, a super vehicle, or political authority. Then there are Powers, which are like you'd expect weather control, flight, super strength and so on. I'll get into more details later since there are complications to these in the form of Limits and Issues. That's also for another post.

Human is, you guessed it, a regular human. Like a Dark Detective Gadgeteer or a gun-wielding Vigilante. They do get an extraordinary bonus to stats to represent that they are at the peak of normal human ability at somethings.

Exotic is similar to human in that they are "normal", but they can be a member of an alien or supernatural race. Perhaps they just have blue skin or pointy ears, or lizard skin. Again, like humans they are in the normal range of abilities, but do get a bonus to put them at the peak end of normal. Humans and Exotics are more likely to have Gifts than Powers.

Mutant. It wouldn't be much of a supers RPG without mutants! Would it? Their powers come from their inborn mutant abilities. But they are also feared by the public and so often get bad press.

Cyborgs and Robots are quite similar but are different enough to warrant their own categories. Their powers come from mechanical and/or computer abilities and enhancements.

Super alien. Like John Carter on Mars (the original super!), some aliens have superpowers when they are on Earth.

Supernatural origin. I was hesitant to go too far into mysticism, occult, and magic in Guardians. However, there is a big tradition in comic books to dabble in these as sources of powers so I'd be remiss not to include them. Also, this ties into using other original edition compatible games with Guardians. If you wanted a Sorceror Supreme type you could access the thousands of spells that have been designed and use them in your Guardians superhero game. At any rate this covers demons, angels, gods, witches, vampires and so on.

Superhuman. This is for your classic super that got her powers from a genetically modified arachnid, or a super serum experiment.

I think one of the things that surprised me about co-designing Guardians was how much of the common tropes could be handled in the Origins category, and this allowed for the Classes to be quite simple and streamlined. But, more on that later.

Oh, and here is a great article on the classic Marvel Super Heroes game by TSR.

2015 Sketchbook

I recently put together a collection of drawings and sketches of done over the past year (or so). It's 28 pages and filled with all kinds of doodles, pencil drawings, pen & inks, and composition studies. I'll have it at the conventions I'm lined up to attend this year, including Wizard World Sacramento, Gen Con, Wizard World Reno & San Jose.
The sketchbook is also available online here: http://www.lulu.com/shop/thomas-denmark/thomas-denmark-sketchbook-2015/paperback/product-22220203.html
Thanks for checking it out.

Jun 12, 2015


Inspired by the hobgoblin drawing from Vol. 1 Men & Magic, here is my attempt at doing an updated version.

Here is the original.

Using Warriors of the Red Planet to run Tékumel

Brett Slocum took Warriors of the Red Planet and house-ruled it into a Tékumel during The Latter Times game. It is a pretty clever use of the ruleset. He posted the rules on his joyfulsitting blog.


Jun 9, 2015

Quantum Kat - Guardians Preview

A sample character from Guardians.

Superhuman Power-Wielder, 1st level
Str 8 (-1), Dex 13 (+1), Int 15 (+1), Wis 9 (0), Con 10 (0), Cha 13 (+1).
Gifts: Hacker.
Powers: Superior Intangibility, Electrical Shock
Issues: Kid (age 13)
Equipment: None.
AC 9 [11].HP 13 EP 9.

Ekatarina “Kat” Zenkova was the daughter of a husband and wife team of physicists working at TeraWorks high-energy physics laboratory. They were developing a new cloaking device from study of alien “PZ-particle” tech salvaged from a UFO crash. Unfortunately while Zenkova was visiting the lab on her 13th birthday, it was raided by agents of WARSTAR trying to seize the UFO parts for their own purposes. During the firefight Zenkova was shot, and, dying, fell down into the device, which exploded. Her body was infused with PZ-particles, leaving her caught in a strange ghost state neither alive nor dead. Presumed dead, Zenkova was left behind when her parents were kidnapped. Gaining control of her new matter-phasing powers, she was able to stow away and seek out a local super team for help...


This blog has been mighty quiet so far this year. But that is because I have been hard at work creating some interesting OSR material that will soon be published.
With the success of Warriors of the Red Planet I've been working on some other OSR style game settings. The lessons learned from WotRP is don't announce your game too soon! It was a couple years from the announcement until the publication of Warriors, and I don't want to leave everyone hanging again. So here is an update on a few things at work here at Original Edition...

Warriors of the Red Planet
The single biggest request has been for a PDF version. And I'm happy to say that the PDF will soon be available. What was the big hangup? Well, I always wanted a decent map of Barsoom to go with the book and the map in the print edition wasn't quite at the level I wanted. So, I've been working on a better more usable map to include in the PDF edition. Also, there has been an adventure in the works which is being finalized now. It has been playtested several times and is ready for a final editing and layout pass. So The Lost Vault of K'Ral is about ready to publish. This makes Warriors of the Red Planet a much more satisfying book with a Core Rules, a basic Sandbox setting ("Barsoom"), and an adventure.

Now, for the big announcement. I have admired a lot of the books that have come out lately in the tradition of the Original Edition. One of the ones that really caught my eye was White Star by James Spahn. I wanted to do a Star Wars inspired OSR book, but he beat me to the punch! That's okay, because I've been working on another OSR book inspired by the recent spate of amazing comic book movies that have come out recently. Imagine if you will that the original RPG, instead of being Tolkienesque, had been inspired by Silver and Bronze age comics!

Introducing GUARDIANS. A new retro-clone that reimagines the original fantasy RPG as a super-powered game of super heroes and super villains in a modern day setting. The writing is complete, and it is currently in layout with art being added and finishing touches being made. My co-author, David Pulver is a veteran writer of RPG's going all the way back to the classic Marvel Super Heroes by TSR! The final book will be available July 9th by PDF and Print. I will have copies at Gen Con for those attending the show.

Expect previews over the next few weeks to discuss the mechanics and how the richness, complexity, and depth of the superhero genre was boiled down to its essence and simplicity for the Original Edition format.