Dec 30, 2016

A Dune Remake?

Considered to be the greatest science fiction novel ever written, Dune has been put on film a couple of different times. Most notoriously by David Lynch in 1984 which bombed at the box office but has collected a following over the years. And a Syfi channel version that was more true to the book, yet to me was far less watchable.

Now a new major motion picture is reported as being in development:

This makes me think of the ill fated Dune RPG that was published years ago by Last Unicorn Games. I was at Gen Con the year it was released, I remember a wall of these books at the Wizards of the Coast booth. They had a 1 book per customer rule, but I don't think anyone was actually enforcing it. Now that book goes for hundreds of dollars on eBay. I wish I'd bought a dozen of them!

The Dune RPG

A quick search on ebay pulls up these auctions:
One for $24,592.00 
And this one for $18,444.00
Seriously, if anyone wants to pay $18,000 for a copy of this game I have one that is near mint, mail me a cashier's check and I'll send it to you right away!

When the Dune RPG was announced all those years ago it was also supposed to have this supplement; Pathways to Infinity. Was this ever published? Has anyone ever seen it?

I'd love to see a revival of Dune as an IP with lots of supporting material like video games, tabletop games, movies, and TV shows. It's one of my favorite book series, and as much as Robert Heinlein's Starship Troopers inspired Colonial Troopers, I couldn't help but have some Dune influences in it. I'd especially like to see God Emperor of Dune as a movie, this is probably my favorite piece of Dune art!

Raiders Preview: the Scientist class

Finding the right mix of player classes has proven to be one of the biggest challenges in designing Raiders. It isn't just a collection of random character types from the period, but classes that specifically work well together to maximize enjoyment at the gaming table. Players naturally gravitate to certain types. I personally find myself always picking that outlier class that no one else does, but that I think will help the party. For example a druid if I think outdoor survival is going to be an important part of the adventures. So that means providing the core classes you'd expect like a Treasure Hunter and Mercenary, but also some interesting other options.
The current mix of classes we are playtesting include a Scientist. Players of Warriors of the Red Planet will recognize this class. They are exceptionally useful in the time period, having a similar role as a magic-wielder does in traditional fantasy roleplaying games. My only concern is that it isn't 100% in fitting with the genre, its a little bit wacky and weird because it clearly falls under the category of "mad scientist", and that may not be what I want the game to evoke.
With that being said, here is the current state of the scientist class, and will likely be very close to the final printed form (if this class makes the final cut).
Scientists rely on their high intelligence and extensive schooling, their brilliance in their chosen fields and the strange devices they can invent. They may be elderly scholars or two-fisted adventurers, absent-minded professors or grease-soaked engineers. Most scientists that would go on fool's-errand adventures are considered crackpots, or if particularly brilliant may be called a mad scientist. Their motivation may be to expand the frontiers of knowledge, but they may also be seeking validation.
HD (d6)
Gadgets (level)

Gadgets: Each Scientist possesses a suite of instruments, devices, and weapons, collectively known as Gadgets. The Scientist adds a new device to this suite each time he or she gains a level. A Scientist with an Intelligence of 13 or higher starts out with one additional 1st-level Gadget. Scientists may fill these slots with Gadgets acquired in play (from treasure troves or other scientists), but cannot have more Gadgets than slots.
Gadgets require power to operate. Unless otherwise noted in the Gadget’s description, each Gadget may be used once per day, and must be recharged before it will function again. Each Scientist possesses a portable power source (pack, battery, solar array, etc.) that will recharge any Gadget the Scientist possesses, once every 24 hours.
Lost or destroyed Gadgets may be replaced at a cost of $100 per level of the Gadget, while lost or destroyed power packs may be replaced at a cost of $100 per level of the Scientist.
A Scientist may use another Scientist’s Gadget (including any Gadgets that might be found in a trove) for a cost of two power pack charges, providing they are able to figure out how to use it (ST modified by Intelligence: Basic Ability Modifier).
A Scientist with high Intelligence may apply his or her Basic Ability Modifier to a Gadget that requires an attack or damage roll.
At higher levels, when a Scientist gets a higher level Gadget that is basically an improved version of a Gadget they already have, Referees may choose to allow them to swap out the inferior Gadget for another of the same level.
Next preview I'll show off some of these gadgets that have been designed for the game!

Dec 28, 2016

Guardians OSR Superhero RPG Review

Bloat games has made a video review of the groundbreaking Guardians superhero roleplaying game. It is more of an overview than an in depth review, but it gives you a good idea of what the book is like. Check out the review here:

Beastie: Acid Shower!

What if the original Monster Manual had also listed Traps amongst the various creatures you could encounter in the DnD world? I've often thought about a monster book that was treated more like an Encounters book, so it would be filled with more than just nasty beasties, but also NPC's, traps, situations, and other things of that nature. Encounter Encyclopedia? Encounters & Engagements? With that in mind here is a Trap in a similar format to the Beasties I've been posting. When I put together a Beasties II book I think I'll include several entries like this.

This one is classic, if a bit simple and straightforward, I'll make some more clever and devious traps in later entries of this series!

Acid Shower
HD 3+1
Diff 16
Dam 2d6 + 1d6/turn 1-3 turns
Save -2
CL/XP 3/200
Special: ruins armor
The Acid Shower is one of the most terrifying traps an adventurer can encounter. A caustic liquid sprays in a 10’ radius, affecting everyone in the area. Victims will immediately take 2d6 points of damage and must save or take an additional 1d6 points of damage each round for the next 1-3 rounds.
The acid also destroys any armor and clothing the character is wearing.
Immediately removing armor and clothing will prevent the additional damage, but the armor will be ruined and unwearable.

Dec 22, 2016

The Upside Down Basic Roleplaying Game

I'd play this!

All the elements for a great game: a parallel dimension filled with monsters, psychic powers, shady government organizations, a secret military facility, and more!

It's like Gygax and King co-wrote a book.

Dec 20, 2016

Star Wars: Rogue One

I've seen Star Wars: Rogue One twice now, and it has reignited my love of Star Wars much more so than The Force Awakens did. It makes me want to take the White Star RPG and add the cool stuff from Rogue One and run a game!

If you haven't seen it yet what are you waiting for? It's terrific and really feels like the Star Wars you know and love. It fits seamlessly with the original A New Hope. I'm going to list some things I liked, and a few things I didn't. So if you don't like spoilers this post might not be for you.


Jyn Erso
Act 3
The finale (it was awesome!)
Darth Vader's appearance
Every cameo (the original X-Wing pilots were a nice surprise!)
Darth Vader's castle
Death Troopers (and how their communications sounded)
Chirrut Îmwe (played by the great Donnie Yen)

Captain Cassian Andor
New ship designs, especially the U-Wing
New planets
Acts 1 & 2 (they both end on a down note, actually all the acts end on a down note, but the finale is, appropriately enough, hopeful)
Director Krennic

If you've seen the movie you know why I chose this image

Didn't Like

Soundtrack (really, it was terrible and didn't fit the tone of the movie at all. It was so off in places and weird)
Some of the CG shots of Tarkin (though most were brilliant)
Something about the CG of Leia (yet I still loved her cameo)
No opening crawl (I get they want to break away from that format and differentiate from the Saga films, but this intro didn't work at all)

Overall I give it 9 out of 10 stars. It ranks in the top 4 of all the Star Wars films (I'm not yet ready to rank it above Return of the Jedi, and it's definitely not as good as The Empire Strikes back - though its close)

If you're curious this is how I rank the Star Wars films:

  1. A New Hope
  2. Empire Strikes Back
  3. Return of the Jedi
  4. Rogue One
  5. Phantom Menace
  6. Revenge of the Sith
  7. Ewoks: The Battle for Endor
  8. Ewoks: Caravan of Courage
  9. Attack of the Clones
  10. Star Wars Holiday Special
  11. The Force Awakens

Ok, I'm kidding about The Force Awakens, but only a little. It's actually #7. At least the Holiday Special wasn't pretending to be something it wasn't.

Raiders Preview: Luck

I've always thought of Saving Throws as just another way of saying luck.

In systems like Swords & Wizardry I think the single Save stat eliminates confusion and makes the save system much easier to use in the heat of play. One of the biggest criticisms leveled at the single Save stat is that it makes no sense and isn't fair; like a Fighter arbitrarily has a better chance against a Charm Person spell than a Magic-User. The point makes some sense until you see it as another balancing factor between the classes, and thematically a Fighter should get more chances than a Magic-User against dire events. Conan was always luckier than the spell-casters. This permeates the pulp fantasy genre.

The nature of Raiders calls for a very different use of the Saving Throw system. Since magic isn't ubiquitous which is usually one of the most common uses of saves, there is little need for that system the way it is traditionally used. However, luck is a huge element in pulp adventures! The logical translation then of the save system is to turn it into a luck roll. By redefining it as luck we can start repurposing it to better fit the genre.

In addition to the basic luck stat each class has, modifying it by the base ability modifier depending on the specific situation the luck roll is called for further binds the luck roll to the feeling of pulpy adventure. This makes luck not only class dependent, but ability reliant as well. This adds depth and texture to the system and it feels right for the genre.

Lucky rabbit's foot
This is the target number for the character trying to avoid something terrible. Sometimes, both during combat and out, a luck roll is required to determine whether a character sustains some ill effect or not. In such a case, a d20 is rolled, and the applicable Attribute modifier is added to the roll. If the character rolls the luck value or over, he or she avoids the damage or effect (or, in some cases, may take reduced damage or effect.)  This number is modified by the appropriate Attribute modifier depending on the type of terrible event.

Luck Versus Terrible Events
Strength: Crushing Events, Disarm Events, Knockback Events
Intelligence: Memory Events, Puzzle Events,
Wisdom: Perception Events, Deception Events, Mental Attack
Constitution: Death, Deprivation, Disease, Endurance, Poison,
Dexterity: Evasion Events, Balance & Coordination Events, Speed Events
Charisma: Ego Events, Emotion Events, Fast Talk Events

Lucky Break: on a natural roll of 19 or 20 (the die itself lands on 19 or 20) this is considered a lucky break and the Player and Referee coordinate to describe a fortunate series of events to the benefit of the character and his allies.

Bad Break: on a natural roll of 1 or 2 (the die itself lands on 1 or 2) this is considered a bad break. The Referee describes a terrible outcome for the character and/or his allies depending on the situation. Things go from bad to worse.

For example: your group is barreling down the narrow dusty streets of Cairo, having just grabbed the Staff of Imhotep. You are being pursued by a secret paramilitary group determined to return the glory of the pharoahs to Egypt. They pull along side you and toss a grenade in your jeep! The Referee determines everyone in your group needs to make a Dexterity luck roll or be annihilated by the explosion. Those who succeed jump out in time, perhaps taking 1d6 damage from the high speed leap. Those who get a lucky break perhaps they grab the grenade before it explodes and toss it back in the vehicle of the pursuers! If someone gets a bad break perhaps that’s it for them, or the referee may decide that when they bail from the vehicle they are immediately captured by the paramilitary group.

Dec 19, 2016

Beastie: Monday Kobold

Monday Kobold
HD 1-4hp
AC 9[10]
Atk 1 weapon (1d6)
Move 6
Save 18
CL/XP A/15
Special: Coffee breath.
Normally kobolds are subterranean, vaguely goblin-like humanoids.  But the Monday Kobold is a result of a normal human having a tough Monday at work. They start out the day well enough, but eventually consume so much coffee that their breath effectively becomes a weapon that repels any who fail a Save and they cannot come within 15' of the kobold.

Dec 14, 2016

Map Your Own Fantasy World to a Globe

Map to Globe is a nifty tool for applying a map of your fantasy world onto a 3D globe and rendering it out, and it is freely available online.

I've been playing with it, using the map of the world from Dungeoneer (called Tarna) and seeing the results. This could be a very handy tool for your own campaign.

Here is a flat version of Tarna

This is what it looked like when I applied the map to the globe:

Interesting seeing in 3d what a different impression of what the world is like!

There are a lot of other settings and options you can work with. Including height maps and night view, animations, and other things. I created a quick height map, white being highest, black being lowest elevations, and applied it.

The height map:

This is how it rendered out:

You can check out Map to Globe here:

Dec 13, 2016

Raiders Preview & Monster of the Week

All in one post.

Perhaps the most classic of monsters that fits in the archeological adventures genre is the mummy! This is the current write up for the mummy entry in the Raiders core rulebook. It is still being tweaked, so there might be some differences in the final published version. And as you can see the art is still rough sketches.
HD: 6+4
AC: 3 [16]
Atk: touch (1d6+special)
Save: 13
Move: 60’
CL/XP: 7/500
Special: Varies; Rot, hit only by magic weapons
Mummies are corpses, often of rulers, priests, or magicians, that have been preserved through embalming, desiccation or other means, with  has often sustained a lingering life force easily reanimated via magic or divine curses. Not just Egyptian, mummies are found in the many places in South and Central America, as well as Turkestan. Of special interest in the 1930s are the mummies of the Canary Islands, as these have been found with blond hair, suggesting to the Nazi archeologists that they might be significant figures connected with an ancient Aryan super-race!) Mummies are corpses that have been preserved through embalming, desiccation or other means. Mummies cannot be hit by normal weapons or bullets, and even magical weapons or heavy weapons like grenades or cannon inflict only half damage against them. (They may be vulnerable to full damage from fire or flamethrowers, if they have flammable bandages.). Sometimes their touch also inflicts a rotting disease which prevents magical healing and causes wounds to heal at one-tenth of the normal rate, curable only by an artifact or rare spell that removes the curse. Others have even greater powers such as summoning up insect plagues or sandstorms (range 30’, automatic 1d6 damage/round over an 60’ radius for 3 rounds) to bedevil their foes, or having the ability to steal life force and shed their mummified corpse bodies for a newer rejuvenated body.

Dec 7, 2016

Raiders Preview: Fringe Groups and Pseudo-Archeology!

How can a campaign be great without great adversaries to contend against? We didn't have to go far to find real historical factions, fanatics, sinister forces, deluded fringe groups, and pseudo-archeologists to fit the bill! The early 20th century was filled with all kinds of shady characters and shadowy coteries and cabals to contend against and thwart the player's characters at every opportunity.

This section of the game provides the game master with a wide variety of intensely dedicated and fanatic organizations that are determined to acquire The Mesopotamian Tablets of Destiny before you do! Except they want to use its extraordinary power to further their own ends or even take over the world, and you want to put it in a museum where serious scholars and people can study it to increase their understanding of history.

I've already covered Nazi Archeology in a previous post, but these are some other, but no less adverse, groups to contend against:

Schools of Pseudo-Archeology
Not all relic hunters are mere tomb raiders; many are scientists who have particular theories - albeit non-mainstream theories - as to the true nature of the ancient past and how the existence of super-powered artifacts may fit into the scope of history. Attempts to prove the existence of these theories can drive archeological investigations! (Referees may also think of this as a sort of alignment system for archeologists...) Here are some examples of such schools of thought:

Ancient Astronauts School
This school would not gain widespread attention until the 1960s works of Swiss author Erich von Daniken (Chariots of the Gods, et al) but there may be proponents of it in the 1930s. The idea is that legends of ancient gods and their powerful artifacts are not magical or divine, but rather represent the super-technological relics left behind by nonhuman extraterrestrials who visited Earth and were mistakenly worshipped as deities by early civilizations. Thus, artifacts with “magical” powers are actually technologies so advanced that are indistinguishable from magic (e.g., psionic focusing machines), while monsters, immortal humans, demi-gods, and hybrid creatures are the result of biological experiments or interbreeding between humans and these alien beings.

Lost Super Civilization School
These artifact raiders also explain away ancient objects of power as not magic but technology, but do not subscribe to the idea of ancient astronauts. Instead they believe that a past technological civilization existed, perhaps 10,000 or 20,000 years ago. They may call it Atlantis, Lemuria, Mu, or Thule; regardless, it was a great civilization of men, perhaps a human master race with more-than-human mental abilities; however, they feel there is no need to invoke gods, angels, and the supernatural. Even when confronted with divine power, they explain it with scientific terminology: it’s a radio for talking to god!” This theory is obviously most palatable to gadgeteer characters (and mad scientists).

Comparative Mythologists
These archeologists believe that a core of truth exists behind ancient myths but like to attempt to explain them as fairly historical events. The more mundane amongst them conflate multiple myths together, e.g., suggesting that the figures in the various “Ark” stories (Noah, Ziusudra, Utnapishtim, etc.) were all versions of the same original, tale. Their basic theory is that tales of miracles or ancient gods are explainable as exaggerated stories of real events. The Flood was a period of really bad weather. The Trojan War was just a political-economic struggle between Mycenae and Asia Minor; gods like Odin or Horus or Apollo or Isis were dim folk-memories of powerful ancient chieftains and priestesses at the dawn of history fictionalized by their descendents into divine myths. Where they differ from mainstream archeology is that they think it is quite possible a diligent archeologist really will stumble upon the “Tomb of Zeus” or discover astronomical records that prove the Star of Bethlehem was a super nova or some such. But they will usually be shocked if confronted with “real” supernatural powers!

Other Nationalist Archeologists
Archeologists working for the  intensely-nationalistic fascist Italy and Empire of Japan will, like Nazi Germany, be interested in anything that promotes their leader’s power. Italian archeologists seek to dig up Roman relics. Japanese archeologists are often interested in ancient Shinto relics in Japan, and in Buddhist relics (found anywhere across Asia and India). In the USSR archeologists working for state-controlled agencies such as Moscow University are interested in early Slavic civilizations, or simply in finding anything valuable that will increase Soviet power. (However, Russians who promote the wrong theories risk being purged by Stalin and so must carefully interpret artifacts in light of atheist communist theory which denies the existence of gods, believes that history progresses forward, and is skeptical of magic but not necessarily psychic powers. There are likely secret NKVD spies hidden amongst any group of Soviet archeologists who will not hesitate to denounce anyone who deviates from the present party line. Of course, anything with military significance will be valued regardless of its explanation.

Religious-Inspired Archeologists
The best-funded of these are Christian archeologists who are interested in proving the historical truth of the Bible’s miracles by recovering Biblical artifacts of power like the Sword of King David or the Rod of Moses, or of finding physical evidence of events or places from the Bible like the Flood, the Tower of Babel, Garden of Eden, or the Parting of the Red Sea. They often receive their funding from the Vatican (see the description of the Pontifical Commission on Sacred Archeology) or from American protestant churches. Some of the latter are interested in theories that prove the infallibility of the Bible over mainstream science, e.g., “young earth creationism” (that the earth is no more than a few thousand years old). There are other groups such as Mormon archeologists who attempt to find evidence supporting the Book of Mormon such as the idea that Israelites traveled to America.

One-Issue Fringe-Theorists
These are usually trying to use archeology to prove one particular fringe theory  such as the reality of a Tibetan Super-Civilization, the existence of Atlantis or Lemuria, or Vikings in the New World, or proof of a great witch-cult that stretched across Europe, or that monsters such as the Minotaur are real. One popular example is the Lovecraftian School, a hybrid of religious-inspired and ancient astronauts, these believe in the existence of elder non-human gods who ruled earth before man (and may still sleep in obscure places). They seek out ruins whose strange geometries and bizarre structures are suggestive of non-human construction, and often fund expeditions to locations where no cities are supposed to exist, such as lost plateaus of Antarctica. Occasionally they are backed by obscure cults that secretly worship the beings they are studying, and hope to recover relics that could summon or awaken them. They have a high mortality rate.

Dec 6, 2016

Get Your Own Woodgrain 1st Printing of Dungeons & Dragons!

For the low low price of $5800 (as of the time of this post) you could get your very own copy of the original Dungeons and Dragons, the rarely seen woodgrain edition. It looks to be in very good shape, and the seller has been verified though this is his first eBay auction. So it's legitimate. Hurry and bid now, only 3 days left.

Check out Original Dungeons and Dragons Set - Woodgrain Box - First Printing #TSR

Update: several other blogs have picked this up, some of them before I did. I spotted it when reading the Acaeum forum. Here is the thread discussing it:

Dec 5, 2016

Beastie: Miniature Neo-Otyugh

Neo-Otyugh, Miniature
HD 4
AC 18
Atk ML 1d6x2 (tentacles), 1d4 (bite)
Save 12
Move 6
CL/XP 6/400
Special disease

Miniature neo-otyugh are related to the common otyough, but can be far more dangerous because of how difficult they are to detect, 1 in 6 chance of spotting during a search. These tiny creatures, about the size of a chihuahua pup, are scavengers that live in dark, damp environments, often lurking in piles of garbage and excrement.

These strange creatures have stubby elephant like legs, a mass of wrinkled flesh, two eyes on flexible stalks, two razor sharp tentacles, and a mouth full of craggy teeth.

Anyone bitten by an otyugh’s mouth has a 5 in 6 chance of contracting a fatal disease, save or die in 3d6 days unless cured.  Unlike their larger counterparts they are wickedly smart and will work together to bring down large foes. Miniature otyughs use an emotional empathy to communicate with each other which they can send simple messages like danger, attack, and flee.

Dec 2, 2016

Beastie: Ridgeback Manticore

Manticore, Ridgeback
HD 7
AC 16
Atk ML 1d4x2 (claws), 1d6 (bite), RNG 1d4 (tail spikes)
Save 12
Move 12/18 (fly)
CL/XP 9/850
Special: paralyzing poisonous spikes

A ridgeback manticore is a horrifying feral beast with bat wings, the face of a grinning mad man, a mouth full of sharp teeth, the body of a lion, and a spine ridged with poisonous spikes down to its tail.

The ridgeback manticore can hurl up to 3 of the spikes from its tail per round, at a maximum range of 180ft. On a successful hit the victim must Save or be paralyzed unable to perform any actions for 1-6 rounds. It only has 7-12 (1d6+6) spikes which will take 2d6 days to grow back.

A ridgeback manticore haunts rocky highlands and prefers to keep to itself. They create eccentric lairs where they collect the remains of those unfortunate enough to fall prey to it. They are also extremely intelligent and will speak the common tongue of the region they live in. Their thoughts, however, are dark and disturbing. To have a conversation with a ridgeback is to converse with madness.

Dungeon Grappling + Guardians

Just 3 days left in the Dungeon Grappling Kickstarter. One of the add on items is a copy of Guardians. Douglas H. Cole, creator of Dungeon Grappling, wrote up a nice informative review of Guardians you might want to check it out.

Nov 30, 2016

The Savage Sword of Conan!

Dark Horse comics has been publishing reprints of the entire run of The Savage Sword of Conan. It is now complete with the publication of #22 (just that book is over 600 pages!). I sporadically collected the original magazines in my youth, and loved them, so it is a special treasure to be able to have the entire collection on my bookshelf!
They almost all fit!
I minor gripe, the reprints are smaller than the original, and they are printed on cheap newsprint. It would have been preferable to see it reprinted on higher quality whiter paper so the artwork could stand out better. I would gladly pay a few bucks extra for that.

I was thinking of doing a retrospective, as this type of fantasy greatly influenced D&D, and I'm sure many of you collected and were inspired by these barbaric tales.

There were so many great, truly amazing, artists whose work filled the pages of Conan. Where else could you see such impeccable draughtsmanship and fine detailed inking on a monthly basis? Not since the hey day of the golden age of illustration, before color printing became the norm, has there been such a bounty of ink drawings of this caliber being produced and printed without color. Just the raw black & white inks!

In this story Iron Shadows in the Moon master penciler John Buscema is having his drawings being graced with the stunningly skilled Alfredo Alcala, arguably the top, or at least in the top 3 inkers of that era. The result is jaw dropping.

The story itself is ok. It runs in 3 parts. In the first part Conan is the lone survivor of a massacre and he unintentionally saves a slave girl. He actually shows himself to be a bit of a gentlemen - to contrast with the barbarism of the "civilized" slavers. Part 2 delves into some ancient ruins, and there is an encounter with a wizard. The last part they run into pirates and Conan does what he does so well. I won't spoil the ending.

This could very easily be converted into a fun little three part D&D adventure.

I highly recommend this series.