Friday, December 30, 2011

New Moleskine

Check out the new Moleskine I got for Christmas.  I'm not sure whether to use it or frame it.

And yes, I've been dorking with the blogs template.  Things are changing.  It's not just your imagination. ;)

- Ark

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Dungeonspiration: Contact Sheets

This will be my last Dungeonspiration column for the foreseeable future.   I'll get into why after this week's installment . . .

I've been running a Stars Without Number campaign, which has been going fine with it's automagically generated sector sandbox.  But I got a hankering to try out a published adventure, so I went out and grabbed Kevin Crawford's Hard Light.  It's basically The Keep on the Borderlands for a science fiction campaign - a sort of mini-sandbox inside a great big sandbox.  The thing reads great, and has been playing great as well.

One avenue the referee and players can explore in Hard Light is in solving a mystery.  There are about ten important players in the mystery.  In planning the game, I became worried that the players would not be able to keep up with all the people involved.  How could they remember all of the people if I was having a hard time keeping track myself? Then I thought of a trick I used to use in my old Top Secret days - contact sheets.

I whipped up this contact sheet of contacts (from page 6 of Hard Light, for those following along at home) in less than an hour using's search function and the freebie graphics program Paint.Net (which I use when I don't want to spend the time waiting for Photoshop to load.)  As the PCs meet the denizens of Hard Light, I pull out the sheet and point.  Not only do the players seem to enjoy looking at the pictures - they seem to be remembering them better than they would just with a auditory description.

There was an unforeseen problem.  The character in the lower right-hand cell - see him?  When I snagged the pic, I noticed that it was labelled 'Old Man Logan.'  Having read X-Men back in the 80s, I knew who Logan was, and just assumed that someone had drawn him old, and that the players would never think to associate him with Wolverine.

As soon as I brought out the sheet, two of the players pointed and said 'Hey, it's Old Man Logan!.'  I had no clue that there had been some sort of very popular 'What If?' kind of series based on good old Wolverine in the future.  The players seemed to immediately like the guy before I said a word about him.

So, if you are snagging art for a game, give some thought about the impact a particular image will create.  Players already bring a lot of baggage with them into a game, so try to use it to your advantage. :)

Now . . . as to why Dungeonspiration column is going into hiatus, or perhaps retirement:

1) Focus - The intent of the column was to inspire DMs (and as an afterthought, players) about gaming.  I have a hard time writing about just that.  I'm all over the place - as this particular column illustrates nicely.  It really has nothing to do with the concept of 'Dungeonspiration.'

2) Need - Do the readers in the OSR blogosphere really need to be inspired?  From what I read on other blogs - no.  People are chock full of awesome ideas all over the place.  I think that what people seem to need above all else is time.  If I could somehow bottle time and distribute in via the Internet, that would satisfy a lot more people's need.

3) Self-Discipline - Another reason for the Dungeonspiration column was to provide me with a weekly reminder to write blog post - at lest one a week.  While I think it has helped, I also think that I would have done it anyway - crazy holiday weeks not withstanding.

4) Other Projects - I've got some other projects in queue for 2012.  Those projects have to do with gaming and providing additional blog content - so it's not like loosing Dungeonspiration would be reducing content on the blog itself, I just need to juggle my time wisely.  I still have a lot to juggle and decide what I want to tackle - so some meditation time is in order.

So thougts are my thoughts on the Dungeonspiration column and it's future.  But perhaps I have missed something.  If the column is doing something else for you that I haven't thought of, please let me know.  There may be a reason to keep it around longer that I'm not aware of.  Maybe it warrants a monthly column or something.  I don't know.  If you have any input, feel free to leave it below. :)

Have a Happy New Year - and don't go driving drunk or nothing.  Boozing away and passing out on someone's sofa is far better etiquette than wrapping your car around a telephone pole.

- Ark

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

I Used To Be A Blogger Like You . . .

. . . then I took an arrow to the knee . . . AND they stole my sweet roll . . . WHILE breathing fire on me from the sky.  Thank goodness for DRAGONREND.

I hope everyone had a great Christmas - even if you don't do that sort of thing.  Religion should never get in the way of getting drunk and insulting family members.  Even if they are aliens who shoot you in the knee.

- Ark

P. S. Did I mention knees?

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Dungeonspiration: Jonas De Ro

I spend a good chunk of time on deviantArt looking at pictures.  Admittedly, there is a tons of things I'm not too interested in seeing - thousands of pictures of Naruto draw by twelve year olds, photographs of fat guy's belly buttons, and balloon breasted Poser models in stiff, out-of-the-box stances, but there is a lot of absolutely wonderful stuff too.  Case in point - Jonas De Ro.

De Ro, a Portugese/Belgian living in Germany, creates absolutely wonderful vistas that take the breath away.  I've collected a small smattering of his work below that can inspire ideas in setting ranging from fantasy, cyberpunk, and post apocalyptic nightmares.

Currently, De Ro is working as a Creative Artist on the movie based on the book Cloud Atlas.  If his paintings are any indication, it should be a visual treat.

Lost Citadel

Hong Kong Ruins

Forgotten Glory


The Great Tree

Be sure and click through to the images on his deviantArt account and take a look at the rest of his gallery.  It's some great stuff that left me inspired.

- Ark

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Boy Meets Leaf

The Boy has mastered the ability to get his rear end up over his head, scoring a critical hit on the leaf heap.  All of those swimming lessons have finally paid off.

- Ark

Saturday, December 17, 2011

What the OSR Means To Me

This dude agrees with me.
He even thinks I'm funny.
After over a year of contemplation, I have finally discovered what the OSR means to me.

Well, the acronym, at least. Sums it up perfectly, I think.

Old, Senile Roustabouts.


- Ark

Friday, December 16, 2011

Dungeonspiration: Skyrim

No, I didn't draw it - but I should have.
Drats - I missed my Thrusday Dungeonspiration deadline again.  I should be ashamed.  But I have an excuse.  I blame Skyrim.

Skyrim is awesome.  It look great.  It plays great.  Dragons drop out of the sky in an attempt to punk you all the time.  And what's better - there is not a cluster of people around the world hating you because you were late for a raid.

As I play, I see vistas to describe, horrible traps to throw my players into, and quests to get them involved with.  I'm totally inspired, but somewhat deflated by the knowledge that every single one of my players is playing Skyrim too, and so all this cool new stuff won't be new by the time I regurgitate it into a campaign.

It seems like everyone I know is playing this game.  I wouldn't doubt that there has been a worldwide drop in blog posts since 11/11/11.  A friend's girlfriend also mentioned that there will most likely be a dip in the number of births 9 months from now. The game is riveting, and when our table-top group gets together, we sit around talking about what we did in Skyrim.

Which makes me think: Skyrim is bound to have an effect on table-top game design.  Admittedly, I wasn't paying attention to tabletop or video games in the early 2000s, but 4e has long been lauded as an attempt to make D&D more WOW-like, and from the little I know about WOW - that definitely seems to be the case.

So what will be the effect?  There is not a lot new or groundbreaking about Skyrim - it's primarily the execution that is superbly done, coupled with a great advertising campaign.  A Skyrim billboard still sits on I35 out of Dallas heading for the suburbs.

I'm not much of a game designer. I'm not good at picking apart Skyrim for it's interesting mechanics - aside from maybe it's lock-picking mini-game.  So I'll post the question to everyone:

What effect do you think Skyrim will have on table-top game design - or even just mechanics or idea integration into existing games and people's campaigns?

And yeah, I know some of you have not played Skyrim.  Ya'll feel free to fuss about us other time wasters down in the comments below too. :)

- Ark

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Warning your DM

My Pathfinder DM - Merwyn - let me roll up a new Pathfinder character - a level higher than normal - if I used "in order" 3d6, as opposed to something more wimpy - like 4d6 minus lowest wherever you want.  I took him up on the offer and rolled this:

STR: 10
DEX: 9
CON: 12
INT: 14
WIS: 8
CHA: 17

Not horrible, but not what I would call a great spread for the classes I'm used to running.  After some research, I discovered that the Pathfinder Bard would work with those numbers.  I've never run a Bard - and never had any interest in doing so - but it gave me an idea.

Crazy-ass Tim plays a halfling thief in the game - Peter No-Parents.  Peter is min-maxed so that he can basically never be seen by anyone if he doesn't want to be, and can pickpocket just about anyone.  He also has an ability that makes him look just like a human child (i.e., street urchin,) rather than a halfling.  Peter No-Parents is basically worthless at anything else.

Peter is quite evil, and steals from the party.  Actually, Peter isn't really known to the party.  He hangs on the periphery and commits mischief.  Evey once in a while, a character might see a kid, but the kid walks on by, and no one is any the wiser.  It's really irritating (but funny,) and I designed a character specifically to detect and kill him.  That was Bloodspurt the half-orc paladin.  Bloospurt, regretfully, died - murdered by another party member (an assassin) for tying him up and trying to convert him to a Lawful Good diety.  Oh well.

My idea was . . . unusual . . . so I figured I had to warn Merwyn before I brought this character out for a spin.

Subject: A Warning


My rolls lean me towards a bard, and with the present make up of our party (I'm talking about players, not characters,) doing anything constructive or legal will be pointless. So I have made a trickster/scammer bard - a conman and entertainer in one.

It hit me that I can work Peter No-Parents into the act. I could continue on, earning full master level ranks for my Beard and Boobs badge, and make a female bard, and have that female bard pretend to be Peter's mom, for heightened scamming activity. It also gives Peter an avenue to actually be an active member of the party - even if maybe some party members never quite figure out what is going on. 
Tim and I discussed this briefly, and I believe we are both happy with the concept. Her name shall be Alouette - like in the French song (Ah-low-et-ta,) meaning a lark. Yes, she sings. And she dances. And she knows all about nobility and bluffing and disguise. She is quite greedy as well. 

Peter, will of course, be required to take a bath. And be fumigated.

So, basically - I'm warning you.

Run for the hills.

Your worst nightmare

We'll find out tonight at the Pathfinder game how well this goes over.  If you can't beat em, join em.

- Ark

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Yes, Those Are Dice in My Pocket AND I'm Glad to See You

Feel the power of my huge-ass dice!  They are so big, I could take out car windshields if I decided to chunk these off of an overpass.  The creator was saying that they had imperfections - but frankly - my eyes don't focus to the level where said imperfections might be.  They look great!

That right there - where the #5 is - is where the frikkin space medusa is waiting for the party.  Shhhh - don't tell them though.  Let it be a surprise.

- Ark

Monday, December 12, 2011

Naked Ponies!

Okay, not naked, but here is the original My Little Portal Ponies image without all that text.  I figure that other people can probably make it funnier than me.  Feel free to make word balloons, insert bad jokes, and spread bronie RPG love world-wide on your blogs and other places.  Penicillin optional.  Link-backs welcome.

- Ark

Clicking makes it bigger.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

My Little Pellatarrum

A few weeks ago, I made a smart-ass comment to Erin Palette, that went something like this. "For my next trick, I will draw the My Little Pony invasion of Pellatarrum." Pellatarrum being, of course, her crazy-ass fantasy setting, and My Little Pony being - well, if you don't know - stop reading. This isn't for you.

I had no idea how hard drawing fan art is.  Well, I could have spit out pony stick figures, but no - if I was actually going to act on my half-baked remark, I should do it right.  Trying it really makes you respect professional cartoon artists.  The forms are so simplistic - but have to be so perfect - otherwise they don't look right.  There is something very zen about the art form.  Yes, and this is complete drawn from scratch - no tracing - and done in SHARPIE on paper, then sucked into Photoshop for a dye-job.

The Boy was horrified and refused to look at what I was drawing while I hummed the My Little Pony theme song.  Okay, that was just a side benefit for my inner sadist.  

Below is the MLP Invasion of Pellatarrum.  I do not give this to the OSR, like previous art.  I give it to Bronies worldwide.  Post it wherever.  Not that I own anything about it.  Hasbro owns it all.  Just like D&D.  You know the drill.

So anyway, enjoy!

- Ark

Click Rainbow Dash to embiggen.

Friday, December 9, 2011


Ellen-14 is a non-player character in our Stars Without Number campaign.  The picture doesn't do her justice - but it is similar enough to her appearance to get the point across.

The lady is ten feet high, twenty feet wide, and thirty feet long.  She is somewhat rock shaped, and her tough skin is a gray and black color - the kind you find on certain bloated ticks found in the foothills of Arkansas.  She has a human head emerging from the gray skin a bit over five feet up from the floor, and underneath it hang two human arms.  Having no feet, she moves around like a horta.

Ellen-14 is a human-alien hybrid.  Actually, Ellen-14 isn't just one entity - the name is a signifier for an entire brood of approximately 100 individuals - the 14th generation since initial hybridization.  All of the individual Ellen-14s are pretty much the same, and they keep in contact with one another to avoid drifting apart mentally.

The aliens who designed Ellen-14 (and the many other hybrid variants,) are known as the Metha.  The Metha look pretty much like Ellen-14, but without the human head and the human arms.  They have been sentient for half a million years, and have spent most of that time doing bioengineering work - redesigning themselves - and their biosphere - countless times.  Currently, their bodies house 15 to17 brains - some genetic copies of other alien species that they met in the past.

The Metha fit into the Stars Without Number alien classification of 'Other' - alien beings that are too different from human beings to communicate with or understand.  After a series of brutal wars after first contact, the Metha created the human-metha hybrids as an attempt to understand humanity and communicate with them.  The Metha are completely oblivious to the fact that the mere sight of Ellen-14 and her various sisters and brother causes most humans to run in abject fear.

Ellen-14 does, however, bridge the gap between humans and methans.  She has 18 brains inside of her - one of them human, and they all chat with one other through bizarre chemical interactions, radio waves, and pulsing light.  She is well aware of how she looks, as well.  "Oh my," she will often say, "You think I look hideous.  I do.  I cannot argue.  But I couldn't find a thing to wear today that didn't make me look bloated!"

Ellen-14 is also a smart-ass.

The player characters have - strangely - taken a shine to Ellen-14 and her brood sisters. I'm not sure why.  She is their 'Mr. Johnson," in Shadow-run speak.  They are still very nervous about the pure methans, though.  It might have something to do with the aliens engaging in thermonuclear war as a sport.  But who knows.

- Ark

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Dungeonspiration: Epic Death

Sergeant Loronzo by The Boy -

When I was but a wee role player, I really didn't like the whole character death thing.  It was something to be seriously avoided - going so far as to sit behind a DM screen and never risk a PC by never having one.

But when you come down to it, some of the most memorable moments in role playing are the deaths.  Case in point - The Boy.  While initially horrified by the concept, he is getting quite good at them.

In my Stars Without Number campaign, the characters were contracted by some shady underworld types to shut down a casino.  Not forever, mind you - just for a bit.  Actually, the party never asked - or even seemed to wonder - as to WHY someone would shut down a casino for a bit.  It just enough that they got to cause some chaos - and get paid for it.

The session turned out to be one of those long-ass planning ones.  You know those types.  The players get so interested in the planning aspect that it seems like they never get to the execution.  But several hours later, they had their plan and went ahead.

The plan was to blow up an intra-building sewer main in the casino's hotel and have millions of gallons of raw sewage flood the casino proper.  Actually, the plan was not a bad one at all.  The big problem was that the party's hacker was AWOL (an actual date with his girlfriend!) and so they had to hire a retainer.

The hacker henchman screwed the pooch on his computer and security rolls.  Badly.  Worse than bad. The hacker was particularly nice about the whole thing, calling the party up and letting them know he had miserably failed and had not only NOT prevented the security systems from detecting their activities, but had actually helped the casino security zero in on their nefarious activities.

Ron and Crazy-ass Tim were in the getaway car.  The second they heard the alarm go off, they were out of there.  Completely.  Utterly.  Gone.  Not even a post card.

The Boy, playing Sergeant Loronzo, and Kaye (yeah - the guy who plays Torvalds in the 2e game) were on the third floor, attaching explosives to the sewer pipes when the first security guard arrived, gun in hand.

Sergeant Loronzo picked up a huge plumber's wrench, swung it the guy, and grabbed his Order of the d30 Brand d30, choosing to use it at that moment.  The massive wrench did so much damage it cut the guard in half, showering everything in the room with blood.  They finished setting the charges and high-tailed it out of the plumbing room, racing to get to their long-gone getaway car.

They ran down the hotel hallway to the elevators, but they were too late.  Three security guards stepped out of the elevator firing.  Kaye was hit and died like a punk at zero hit points even.  Sergeant Loronzo wasn't having any of that, so he pulled out his stash of Lazarus Patches. The patches help dead character's come back to life.  Well, very recently dead characters.  And it takes a medic to really apply them well.  Sergeant Loronzo was not a medic.

But damned if he didn't try.  He slapped patch after patch onto his dead buddy, trying to shock him back into life, all the while dodging a hail of bullets.  The other players began a count down to when the timer would kick off the sewage explosives.  Eventually Sergeant Loronzo ran out of patches and the guards - none too happy with all the missing going on - ran up and began to pummel him.

Sergeant Loronzo ran out of patches.  He was very upset that his buddy has died for good.  He mowed down the security guards and proceeded to leave - but more security guards were coming out of the elevators.

The count down to sewage explosion was getting woefully close - like about one round.  Then the boy had an idea. He busted down the door of a hotel room, dove onto the bed, snatched a pillow, shot the glass out of the window with his laser, and leapt out of the building.

The explosives detonated.

Sergeant Loronzo had some hope that the pillow would soften the impact into the ground, but when the true gravity of the situation hit him, The Boy turned, fired his bright blue laser pistol in the air, yelled 'Sayonara,' and made his peace with the universe.

We all thought it was a very epic death - a very inspiring end - and one which should be remembered in the annals of RPGdom forever.

So if you know your character is going to die - think for a second.  What can you do to make the Valkyries sing loudly of that death in their meady halls until Ragnarok comes?  Do something cool - and inspiring.  The skalds will appreciate it.

- Ark

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Vayniris Anthology Project Deadline Approaching

No, I haven't forgotten or totally flaked out.  The Vayniris Anthology project is still going strong - I just haven't mentioned it in a while since it's a project in flight.

 We are coming to a close on our submission deadline.  The deadline is set for December 31st, 2011.  That's in three weeks.

If you have an idea you are keen on and just can't pull it together by the deadline, shoot me a message and we can mind meld about it.  A cut-off point during the holidays was probably a risky idea anyway. :)

- Ark

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Torvalds vs. the Honey Badger

It's thrall good.
I suppose it was my fault.  At least it was my causative action that began the chain of destruction - but listen - I had my reasons.  We were on the trail of an entire village of zombies.  Well, now we believe they were just regular people mind controlled by illithids, but at the time all we knew was that a herd of zombies was bearing down on our home village.

This is the 2e game being run by Crazy-Ass Tim, in which I am playing the sexy elf ranger lady Chartreuse.  One of the party members is Torvalds - the most useless first level magic user in the history of all D&D ever.  Yeah, I know - a boastful boast - but it's true - and even more so as the session unfolded.

So Torvalds rides an ox.  Everywhere.  Even places where oxen do not fit.  But traipsing through the woods following zombies was a bit much for the ox this time around.  Torvalds blew his animal handling roll - and the ox bucked him off and bolted.

The zombies were headed to destroy our town.  Torvalds was about to lead us on a wild-ox chase of ridiculous proportions in the opposite direction.  The ox had Torvalds' spell book - the only thing that makes him even vaguely useful.

So I shot the fucking ox.

Regretfully, the arrow didn't kill the ox.  But as Torvalds became enraged about what I had done, Merwyn's character chased after the ox and hacked it to death.

That's when Torvalds attacked Mervyn's character.

As the two first level characters began to tussle, my character Chartreuse got sick of the whole thing, turned around, and raced after the zombie horde to rescue her village.

Meanwhile, Torvalds actually killed Merwyn's character - dead.  Surprising, yeah.  The Boy thought that such a murder was horrendous and attacked Torvalds, smashing him down below zero hit point.  The Boy has a conscious, though, and only did subdual damage.  He then left Torvalds face down on the forest floor and raced after me.

I was busy tackling zombies and slapping them awake.  The Boy didn't think to tell me that one party member was dead and another was face down unconscious in a zombie infested forest.  But the horrifying screams alerted me that something was wrong.

Torvalds' recess playmate.
Torvalds awoke to a visit from a random encounter - a playful honey badger.  Crazy-ass Tim decided that the honey badger wouldn't do hit point damage - but instead - structural damage.  So, the playful honey badger ripped Torvalds leg off.  Thus the screaming.

So we ran back to where Torvalds was and tried to fight off the honey badger.  The honey badger was, of course, tough.  It ripped off another one of Torvalds' legs.  We continued to attack, and finally took honey badger down.  But even in death, honey badger didn't give a shit and ripped off Torvalds' left arm.

We applied tourniquets, and did massive amounts of cauterization with torches, and brought Torvalds back from the brink.  It really only worked because Crazy-ass Tim is a mean bastard of a DM.  But we had rescued our useless magic-user.  Yay!

Meanwhile, our entire village was slaughtered and burned to the ground.  So, I'm thinking that Torvalds deserves his fate.  Regretfully, he is even more useless than before.  But Kaye continues to play him without a hitch - reveling in his one armed, no leggedness - and declaring himself the Sorcerer Supreme.

The Boy has taken to calling Torvalds the Burrito Supreme.

- Ark

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Dungeonspiration: Gerard K. O'Neill

 "Is the surface of a planet really the right place for an expanding technological civilization?"

Near the end of the space race, a high energy physicist named Gerard K. O'Neill became interested in space colonization.  He had already expressed his interest in space by applying for NASA's Astronaut Corp in the mid 60's, but papers from his students convinced him that designing self-sustaining space habitats could be a worthwhile endeavor.

In his first paper on the subject, "The Colonization of Space", published in 1974, O'Neill wrote:
"It is important to realize the enormous power of the space-colonization technique. If we begin to use it soon enough, and if we employ it wisely, at least five of the most serious problems now facing the world can be solved without recourse to repression: bringing every human being up to a living standard now enjoyed only by the most fortunate; protecting the biosphere from damage caused by transportation and industrial pollution; finding high quality living space for a world population that is doubling every 35 years; finding clean, practical energy sources; preventing overload of Earth's heat balance."
Soon, NASA became interested in O'Neill's research and began funding his efforts.  O'Neill tied many different concepts and technologies together to come up with feasible ideas for space colonization, including solar power, the L4 and L5 Lagrange points, asteroid mining, and magnetic mass drivers.  NASA enlisted other scientist into investigating space colonization, resulting in a golden age of such research. The U. S. Congress, soured on the high cost of space activities - including the Apollo program - withdrew most of O'Neill's funding before the end of the decade.

The ideas that resulted from O'Neill's research are still fascinating.  They open a door to plausible science fiction.  Simply looking at his designs and reading a bit about them are enough to get the mind going.

The first type of space habitat O'Neill' envisioned is a modified Bernal sphere - an idea for a space station developed in 1929.

The Bernal sphere came in two sizes - Island One, which was the smaller, and Island Two, which was larger.

The first two of O'Neill's 'islands' were relatively  simple affairs - big old spinning balls in space.  Island Three was another matter.  Island Three, which has come to be known as the O'Neill Cylinder, is comprised of two separate space stations.  These two gigantic cylinders spin around each other, creating a much more stable system than just one cylinder, which is apt to start spinning from end to end and squash everyone inside.

Yep - that means that Babylon 5 was inherently unstable.  I suppose Vorlon technology kept it upright.  Not only is the O'Neill Cylinder concept more stable, but look at the view!

When you lump O'Neils designs in with the Stanford Torus style of space station, you get all of the space station you could need for a good hard science fiction setting.  And these puppies - especially the  O'Neill Cylinder, make for absolutely great mega-dungeons and Jim Ward Metamorphosis Alpha style gaming.

So go dig through the Internet and do up a science fiction campaign right.  Screw artificial gravity generators.  Do it the old fashioned way - and build a habitable colony to boot!

Anchors away.

- Ark

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

In the OSR . . .

Without further ado . . .

Yay.  I can draw cartoon boobies.

I had meant to write about five gazillion blog posts over the Thanksgiving holiday.  Instead, I wrote butkis.  Nada, zilch . . . nothing.  Not even a Dungeonspiration posts.  I suppose I could could apologize - but I really dislike when people apologize for not writing enough in their blog.  It's like they did something wrong.  Advocating genocide in your blog?  Okay, that's wrong.  Not posting enough?  NOT WRONG.  Lazy maybe, but not wrong. :)

So I've been drawing a lot, fiddling with different styles and whatnot.  The elf chick popped out when I was actually trying to draw something else - but I decided to color and ink it anyway - since I liked her expression.  But just the picture was kind of weird, so I gave it a caption.

POOF - it's a MEME!

Yay!  It's the "In the OSR . . ." meme!  Everyone jump on the bandwagon and go create something - a poem or macaroni art or whatnot.  Try to be actually funny - unlike me.

Like so much of my OSR art, I'm giving this to the community.  I doubt that anyone really wants it - but feel free to repost, spindle, and mutilate.

Ohhh - btw - I won an award!  Thanks Tim! (Not Crazy-Ass Tim, but the Other Tim.) Apparently, my blog is 'quirky.'  I had no idea.  I'm going to have to go look that up in the dictionary to find out what it means.

- Ark

Saturday, November 19, 2011

More Retro

Yeah - more stuff that doesn't have to do with gaming, but I was particularly happy with this one.  I'll try to keep more game related art on the blog.  After all, I have a deviantArt account to toss all the other stuff on. :)


- Ark

Friday, November 18, 2011

Rather Gamey Cheesecake

Okay, so it has nothing to do with gaming.  More practice drawing.  This is an attempt to draw in a 'retro cartoon' style.  The reference, she is here.

This was done by hand with Sharpie and colored pencils, because the only pc that can run Photoshop was being used at the time by The Boy for SKYRIM.  Sheesh. ;)


- Ark

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Dungeonspiration: Dreams

It's been a stressful couple of months at work, and yesterday, due to several breakages, I needed to work through the wee hours of the night.  I had about four hours to cram a nap into before starting the debug, so I collapsed in the bed and fell asleep almost instantly.

Then came the dream.

I was living in a village inhabited solely by children, in the middle of a post-apocalyptic wasteland criss-crossed by water canals.  There were five of us: me, a black girl with very long dreads, and a a nerd boy who looked like a cross between Rick Moranis and the cartoon dude on the 'For Dummies' books.  The two others were, like so many people in dreams - faceless, but there.

We played all day amidst the ruble of the once quaint town, carefree as the kids on that old Star Trek episode were where all the grups died.  But all was not well in paradise.  There were evil dwarves afoot.  Not that they were short - or hairy - or looked or acted anything like dwarves.  But they were dwarves - that was for sure.  And they travelled in submarines that looked suspiciously like the CSS Virginia (or Merrimac, as it is improperly known.)  They travelled down the canals that stretched across the open prairie, hunting children.

Luckily, we were psychic, so we knew trouble was coming before the first cannon balls started flying.  We also knew that an evil old man had sent the dwarves after us - with the purpose of killing us.  He had killed all of the children except us, and wanted us gone too.  He lived in a city far away filled with only old people and lots of chain link fences.  So we decided to go there.

I have no idea why we thought going to the city of the old people was a good idea.  But that is what we did, narrowly escaping the evil submariner dwarves (that looked a lot like blue meanies, but not blue.)  There were lots of barbed wire and minefields to get through - and search lights remarkably like the eye of Sauron from the cartoon to evade.  But we made it the city.

The city was like a postcard from New York circa 1973 - sort of like Sesame Street - but filled with old people.  They were nice to us when we got there.  We talked to a very nice old man who said he could help.  But suddenly my psychic powers revealed that he was the evil old man - the kingpin - the murder of all the world's children, so we hot-footed it out of there.

That's when the F-14 Tomcats began strafing the street.

We ran down the stairs into the subway station.  The trains weren't running, however.  Instead, the subway was cram-packed with junk - toys, swing sets, stuffed animals, and tons of yellow school buses.  It was so packed we could hardly move - and overwhelmingly claustrophobic.  We hunkered down between two overturned buses, trying to avoid the fighter jets.  I'm not exactly sure how, but the F-14s made it into the station.  Their machine guns blared.  They shot the faceless kids.  They killed the nerd.  They riddled the black girl with bullets.  Then they turned the guns on me.  I could feel the pain as each of the bullets hit - and then I died.

Needless to say, I was very surprised when I woke up.  The places where I was shot were on fire - hurting something fierce.  But after the confusion wore off, I chuckled a bit.  Then I saw the clock and that I had only slept three hours - and the amount of adrenalin I was pumped full of wasn't going to let me get back to sleep.

Many hours later, and most of my work done - I'm a bit punch drunk - and still a bit perplexed and fascinated by that dream.  I'm sure my therapist (if I had one) would have a field day with it.  But it does inspire me.  I'd like to game in a world like that - as horrific as it sounds.

So go dream something weird.  Go on now - don't be shy.  Really freaky.  It will probably inspire you. Oh, and feel free to report back here on your weird-ass dreams.


- Ark

[Since I died in my dream does that mean I'm immortal now?]

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

The Talk, Part Two

This conversation happened a while ago, and was of monumental importance, but like so many things of monumental importance, they get swept up in the hubbub of life.

We were driving to the YMCA where The Boy has his swimming lessons twice a week.  This was before daylight savings time kicked in (or out - I can never remember how that works,) so it was still light then, as opposed to now, when we drive to the Y in the dark.

"So," I said, "We've played Pathfinder several times now.  How are you liking it?"

"I like it a lot," he nodded his head in an exaggerated fashion while adjusting his swimsuit.  The boy was born a swimmer.  He couldn't have been a few months old when his mother took him into the pool and he desperately pushed away from her - convinced in his little head that he could swim like everyone else.

"You remember we were just taking a break from 4e so we could see what Pathfinder was like - right?" I asked.  I didn't want him to think we had abandoned his favorite game.

"Yeah," he watched the traffic out the window.  Today was one of those once a month 'safety' days at the Y, where the class was less about swimming and more about responsibility.  The boy really wasn't impressed with such days.

"I want you to know that I haven't forgotten 4e.  We can start back up any time you want."

"No, that's okay," he said.  The Boy has had a lot of swimming classes, working all the way up from Polliwog to Shark.  Soon in his future may be the swim team, and perhaps, one day, he may become a lifeguard.  It's up to him and where his love of swimming takes him.

"Huh?" I said, "Don't you want to play 4e?"

"No, that's okay.  Pathfinder if funner.  It's more freer like Labyrinth Lord and you're not stuck with all of those powers.  It's simpler and I can do more of what I want to do," he told me.

I almost ran over a cluster of children while turning into the YMCA parking lot.  "Really?" I asked, "I thought 4e was like your home, and you felt more comfortable in your home."  I was trying to suppress a smile.  Finally, he was over the 4e phase and we could focus on good old-fashioned D&D.

The Boy shook his head while getting out of the car and grabbing his towel.  "No dad, just because a role playing game is your first one, doesn't mean it's the best or the funnest.  Don't you know that?"

I collected my sketchbook and pencils from the back seat and quietly followed The Boy into the YMCA, reflecting deeply on what my son had just said.

- Ark

(FYI, the original 'The Talk' posting is here.)

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

The Candy Man

I don't care what the nay-sayers say - I love me some Savage Worlds.  Kay was hankering to run a game, so we settled on Savage Worlds Supers.  About two seconds into character creation, we realized that the only way we could pull a supers game off is if were were all villains.

We started off as normals, visiting an old friend in the hospital - a friend who was in a coma.  Suddenly, like about zero seconds into play, our latent mutant superpowers all turned on and we were off - exploring our powers and running on a destructive rampage.

The Cast of Characters:

The Brain - That's Crazy-Ass Tim's character.  He's a withered near-corpse that floats around in a hospital gown with an IV dangling from his arm.  The Brain refers to his body as 'The Husk,' and communicates via telepathy.  He specializes, of course, in MIND CONTROL.

The Flying Ferret - That's The Boy.  He's a furry guy who can fly and turn invisible.  His speciality is avoiding combat - or anything dangerous - for that matter.  This is pretty much of a continuation of the recent theme of all of The Boy's characters as of late.  The Boy refers to this character archetype as 'The Survivalist.'

Carl - Merwyn is playing Carl.  Carl is . . . completely normal.  He has no super powers.  Carl once owned a comic book shop, and knows a lot about super heroes.  Carl is, however, a super hipster.  If there is something to do in the universe, Carl has already done it before you even thought about doing it, and will mock it - and you - as easily as breathing.

The Candy Man -  This is my character.  Originally, I had named him Shatter.  He was a knock off of the Marvel character Bulls-eye - a dude with the ability to throw just about anything at anybody and kill them.  However, the first thing Shatter picked up was a bowl of peppermints and began killing people with them.  Shatter decided that killing people with candy was more fulfilling that anything else in the universe - thus THE CANDY MAN.

So, after leaving the hospital, the Flying Ferret tried to knock over a 7-11, which didn't go so well, so we decided to hit the nearest bank.  The operation was crystal smooth until two members of the local doogooders guild came to stop us - the Ice Queen and Gigglewatt - or Gigawatt, I think.

Carl was busy stuffing money into bag in back - and the Flying Ferret had run away (again, his modus operandi,) so it was up to me and The Brain - two novice characters - to best two highly seasoned heroes in tight fitting lingerie.

I decided the Ice Queen was the softer target, so I send a vicious barrage of Twizzlers at her.  In two rounds, I had killed her with candy, and began hurling Fun Sized Snickers Bars at Gigawatt, while The Brain mind-controlled the bank customers into attacking him as well.  The Flying Ferret even joined the fun, pulling out a pistol and shooting our dear hero in the back.

Well, Gigawatt zapped The Candy Man into kingdom come, blowing him back, knocking him unconscious, and permanently reducing his intelligence score.  Then he tazed the innocent civilians into unconsciousness, and blasted The Brain.

Luckily, at this point, Carl the ex-comic book store manager plowed through the front door of the bank in an armored car.  He ran over Gigawatt, then back up over his skull for good measure.  Then Carl and the Flying Ferret  loaded up the motionless Candy Man and The Brain into the car and drove off, laughing all the way.

Then there was the heated argument about how much cash one can shove into four bank bags.  Kay originally said a couple thousand dollars, but we booed him loudly, and now desperate Internet research is going on.

So, our characters have made a name for themselves and have also made a pile of money.  The only thing we lost was, well, half of my character's brain.  Fair trade, I guess.

We are now diligently awaiting our phone call from the International Organization of Evil so we can become card carrying members.

- Ark

P.S. - I am deeply concerned that the only time that we really cooperate as players is when we are being evil bastards.  Okay, well, I am not too concerned, but it does make me wonder . .  . :)

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Dungeonspiration: Fellow Players

Kay is playing Advanced Dungeons and Dragons Second Edition with us.  I've seen him play him play quite a few characters.  He's the group's min-max guru.  Kay tweaks out his characters until they are . . . well . . . completely ineffectual at doing anything except that ONE THING he designed them to do.

I describe Kay's characters as awesome looking sports cars that look great in the garage, but drop their transmissions in the driveway on the way to the street.  It's not uncommon for other players just to kill his characters in an effort to put them out of their own misery.

Tim had us rolling straight 4d6 characters for the game.  I rolled up an awesome character - probably the best rolls for a character I've made in 30 years - so good that I made her a ranger.  Kay, on the other had, rolled a big pile of crap.

Torvalds' best stat is 12, and it just goes quickly downhill from there.  This is horrifying to Kay.  He's a young punk in his early 20s.  He is not used to the realities of the old school dice gods.  Tim countered every attempt that Kay made for squeezing anything min-maxy out of the character.

So Torvalds became a magic-user - a magic user with a 15% chance that his one spell each day will fail.

I'm not sure what snapped in Kay's head, but Torvalds personality came to crystal clarity within a few moments after the comeliness, height, and weight rolls.  He was fat and ugly.

Torvalds bought himself an ox, and named it Imbrogli-ox.  He got a saddle and a collapsible ladder, so he could heft his sack-of-potatoes-like body onto Imbrogliox.  Torvalds refuses to get off his ox, unless it is to sleep in his lavish tent.  He even gripes about having to get off the ox to go into buildings with doorways that are ill-equipped to handle an ox.

He also has a beagle called Willington.  The beagle is about as useless at Torvalds is himself, being afraid to go off-road.

Torvalds spent the remainder of his money on expensive steak dinners and grapes.  He's never not eating - constantly popping grapes into his mouth.  Torvalds feeds Willington steak while poor starving village children beg him for food.

We all know that first level magic-users are useless.  Most of the time, the player tries hard to not be that way.  This time - it's the perfect storm - a perfectly useless character statistics-wise being played in a perfectly useless manner.  It's hilarious - and it doesn't help that Kay is constantly miming eating grapes while talking just like Hedonism Bot.

Tim has taken to calling the useless magic-user Cartman Harkonnen - which is very apt.  If only he had a suit that would make him fly and a bag of Cheesy Poufs - it would be perfect.

The Boy calls him Troll-Balls, but that's another thing entirely . . .

So go pay attention to your fellow players as they breath life into characters.  They very well could be up to something amazing while you are not paying attention.  Um, not that Cartman Harkonnen is amazing - quite the opposite - but it is gut-bustingly funny all the same.  It may just inspire you to do something inspiring.

- Ark

P.S. But watch - Torvalds will probably save the entire party one day.  :)

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Advanced Dungeons & Dragons 2nd Edition

From day one, I loathed second edition.  I had already bought my Dungeons and Dragons, and it was ADVANCED.  So now they were telling me all of those books that I had scraped and saved for for years were out-dated and useless?  And to top it off, I was going to need a Trapper Keeper to store my loose frigging leaf Monster Manual in?


I had already moved away from AD&D by that point, anyway.  Beside all of the non-fantasy games I was  playing, I had also discovered MERPS, Rolemaster, GURPS, and Fantasy Hero - all of which, in my opinion at the time - were far superior to the out-dated and limiting fare that TSR was producing.

One of the local comic book stores was selling Second Edition hard - even putting on demo games to get people used to the new system.  I played.  I don't think I paid much attention - it was so foreign and evil and anti-fun, striking at the heart of what it meant to be a red-blooded American and a defender of liberty and free speech and preventing the government from boarding troops in one's home and . . .

Oh, okay, I had a severe spaz attack about the whole thing and didn't pay D&D for 18 or so years.

So, Crazy-Ass Tim, who I've been playing D&D with for around three years, loves second edition. He suckled at Zeb Cook's metaphorical teat as an RPG babe.  If second edition had lips, he'd be deep-throat kissing it.  If it were a biological female, he'd marry it and drag it to Niagara Falls for the honeymoon.  And he wanted to run it for us.  Geez Louise.

After years of resistance, I finally relented.

Come to find out - the second edition players handbook is perhaps the most horribly organized role playing reference in the history of mankind (actually, it's not - I just say that to piss Tim off.)  Okay, really - it's not that bad.  Second edition appears to basically be what happened if you took all of those books we used, and all of those Dragon magazine articles we turned to time and time again, and, oh, tried to make sense of them all and turn it into something comprehensible.

I realize that magic changed in some way - but I haven't delved that far.  But second edition is surprisingly familiar.  I'm not sure if there are any actual changes at all.  Tim keeps on raving about the marvel of second edition's THAC0 - but hell, we were using that in first edition from Dragon magazine - and if I remember correctly - THAC0 was developed back in 1977.  So really - nothing new to see here - just fine tuning, from what I can tell.

Okay, there is the explosion of splat books - but I'll just stick my fingers in my ears and ignore them for as long as I can.  Those are really just like an endless stream of optional Dragon Magazine class articles anyway.

So far, Tim's campaign and the ruleset feels very comfortable and I am enjoying that immensely.  But I must keep up appearances and continue to bitch about it because - well - because I am a grognard, dammit, and we must bitch about things - especially new-fangled things like second edition AD&D.

- Ark

Tuesday, November 8, 2011


PureStrainHuman (aka Crazy-Ass Tim) kicked off an AD&D 2e campaign this Monday, and we had a lot of fun.  I decided to dust off my Beard and Boob Badge and play a lady this time around.  Well, she's not a lady - she's a task oriented elven ranger named Chartreuse.  I really hoped that name didn't stray into the realm of 'stripper names.'  It's one of my favorite colors - and it's sort of green - and she's an elf - and - well - it made sense at the time.

Anyway, I'll give a play report soon.  This is the first real AD&D 2e game I've ever played, so I have LOTS to say about it.  ;)  Meanwhile, I decided to try to draw Chartreuse, and the result is below.  It's a very rough sketch, but I must say, the daily practice is paying off.  I can tell that it's a biped and that it's a she - so I must be on the right track.

I drew this!  Woot!  Click to embiggen - but beware - she might slap you.

Yeah - and she's got anime elf ears.  If Deedlit ears are good enough for Daffy Duck, they are good enough for me.  I hope to clean it up and ink it and all of that jazz at some point.  I might even try to draw a tree or two for some ambiance. :)


- Ark

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Rahul and the Bobble-headed Ganesh

I've just come back from role playing tonight and am still basking in the glow.  The Stars Without Number game went very well.  Tim, Ron, Mervyn, Kay and the boy were great as an unsuspecting band of space adventurers who had the all sorts of crap thrown at them.

Highlights of the Night:

  • The party realizing that they just woke up to a fight between a group of bounty hunters and a family fleeing from the clutches of the Holy Order of Sapphic Islam.
  • Mervyn taking out an entire boarding party with some clever computer commands that vented the atmosphere out of a part of the spacecraft they were in.
  • Tim trying to beat a bounty hunter to death from 200 meters away - telekinetically - with the bounty hunter's own pistol.
  • The Boy firing a laser gun at the nefarious Bounty Hunter Tabari, only to find out that she was a phychic with expertise in both the disciplines of precognition and teleportation.
  • Ron jumping the ship out of system just as the bounty hunters attached a cubic meter of plastic explosives to the hull of the freighter.
  • Tim wandering off on a space station unannounced and coming back with a job offer to hijack an ore shipment on an ice world.
  • The party crammed in a tiny shuttle flying from orbit to a rubble strewn glacier field.  Their erratic pilot, Rahul, had upholstered the dashboard with purple shag carpeting and affixed a Bobble-headed Ganesh there to be his 'co-pilot.'
  • The party convincing a convoy of Hindu ice-truckers to drive their 130 foot long tractor-treaded cargo trucks (laden with highly explosive QUANTIUM ore) on a six-hour journey up a glacier.
  • During a kidnapping, Kay stopping to steal the victim's television from the apartment.
  • The party trying to beat the crap out of their underworld contact Mujibar for non-payment of of services rendered (hijacking aforementioned 130 foot long cargo trucks,) only to find out that the funds had been into their accounts already.  They had been expecting to be paid in gold coins, I think.
  • The party pissing off their employer and Ron having to jump out of system in a spacecraft just seconds before a a space cruiser (owned by their employer) blew them to smithereens.

So, the party is wanted by two major interstellar powers for multiple crimes - and it's just one game into the campiagn.  That's pretty awesome.

I think it behooves a game master to end a night with a desperate attempt to jump into hyperspace or be blasted into component atoms by an angry space armada, relying on a sole Navigation skill check by one of the party members.

Tim, however, is still on the fence about what he calls the "one roll party save versus death saving throw."

I am still trying to keep a straight face.

- Ark

Friday, November 4, 2011

Dungeonspiration: Beginnings

The start of a campaign can be a very exciting time. As a GM, you get to splash paint around a fictional universe and build the skeleton that will be used to host countless adventures. It can also be nerve-wracking as the players may completely reject the universe and it's premise - yawn, back-talk, fold paper footballs and flick them across the table to score field goals, and give off all those other little signs that the GM failed miserably and needs to go back to GM kindergarten.

I've been running a Labyrinth Lord game for over half a year now. We are getting to an exciting bit - but I'm burnt out. Mervyn runs us a Pathfinder game, and Tim is gearing up to run a 2e AD&D campaign. That's a truck load of D&D. I need a change, and since sci-fi is where my head is at, I'm setting the Labyrinth Lord campaign aside and will be starting a Star Without Number game this Saturday.

As quaint as 'you are all at the Space-tavern drinking Space-ale when a Space-stranger dressed in a Space-cloak approached you from the dim Space-corner' sounds as a beginning of a Space campaign - I just can't bring myself to punt like that. I'm a big fan of in media res - and haven't been using it near enough lately.

So below is the intro to my new game - the New Eden Campaign. If I was telling this to the group at the beginning of the game, it would be a lot shorter - but I have an unlimited amount of space on the blog - so here it goes:

You wake up as a needle stabs into your arm. Clear tubes full of a liquid that glows green like radioactive anti-freeze connect to the needle. Machinery begins to hum and it feels like fire is pumping into your veins. It hurts horribly, but your dulled, fuzzy senses suddenly sharpen to crystal clarity.

After a few seconds, you realize you are in nearly featureless coffin with glowing white walls. More needles come out of the wall, injecting you with more uncomfortable liquids. Suddenly you can move your body again. You notice a glass door near your head. Figures seem to be milling about outside. A shrill noise blares, and a red light flashes.  Somewhere nearby, a baby cries.

Memories pour in from before the interstellar coma was induced. The worlds of your home sector were poor. You grew up in poverty, raised by a destitute family in an impoverished culture. But the sector next door - the New Eden sector - contained rich worlds holding vast resources.

A voice comes from a speaker in the coffin.  "This is Captain Kobayashi of the Freighter Edmund Fitzgerald. We are still in route to Hephaestus, but I've lifted stasis for the passengers in steerage capsules early. We are under fire from unknown forces and are currently being boarded. I have awoken you to give you a fighting chance for life, should you choose to take it."

You open the glass door at the head of the cryo-statsis capsule and tumble out. You are in a steerage room. Glass doors leading to stasis capsules line the walls, with one hatch leading out. There are around thirty people in here, standing around in their underwear, looking confused in the flashing glowing lights.  A mother comforts her baby, swaddled in a pink blanket.  A man comforts the mother.

It was perhaps a month ago - you are unsure of the exact date - but some time ago, you purchased a ticket for the New Eden Sector and boarded the Edmund Fitzgerald. It was not your money. Friends, family, your village, or perhaps a crime syndicate helped fund your trip, with the expectation of being paid back soon. 

While rich, the New Eden Sector has been torn with war for many decades. But recently, a mysterious group known as the Benefactors has created a Ambassadorial Council for the sector, where all worlds can safely discuss issues with one another, giving the potential to avert war, increase trade, and benefit everyone. While it seems a difficult task, the Benefactors appear to have deep pockets - and they have been hiring qualified people in droves.

All of the confused faces in the steerage room signed up to go to Hephaestus to seek a new life and get a job with the Benefactors.  Neither you nor they were expecting to awaken so soon, or to the noises that came from the intercom next.

"The ship has been breached and the attackers refuse the communicate their demands.  We are . . ."  the captain's voice is interrupted by the sound of gun fire.  Several of your fellow passengers gasp.  Then a female voice comes on - speaking a harsh language unknown to you.  As she speaks, you notice the pink swaddled baby's mother stare at the intercom speaker, then she begins to yell frantically at her husband in the same language.  He nervously tries to shush her, but another of the passengers points at them and begins yelling angrily.

The room suddenly erupts in argument in many languages.  A grizzled old man blurts out, "They want the baby!  We should hand it over before they kill us all!"  Someone else punches the man in the face, calling him a 'dirty collaborator.'  Chaos erupts.

You are not sure what to do at the moment, but you have a sudden, gut wrenching reaction when you remember that all of your weapons were confiscated when you boarded the Edmund Fitzgerald, and that they are all safely locked up in the weapons locker somewhere else on the ship.  The day is definitely not starting out well.

That's what is in store for the dear PCs.  I hope they will enjoy it.  I'm pumped and definitively inspired to run a fast paced thrill ride of an adventure.

So get your thinking cap on and come up with an inventive and rambunctious beginning to a campaign - or just the start of a particular adventure in an existing game.  It can be really fun and refreshing to toss the players into a situation and yell 'go!'

Enjoy the explosions.

- Ark

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Galactic Proportions

Stars Without Number suffers from the same aliment that Traveller suffers from - two dimensional space.  It's a very understandable affliction.  It's hard to represent a three dimensional stellar map on a flat piece of paper, and even if you do, ho-boy, you have to take out the slide rule to figure distances between the stars.

In order not to upset the hard-core amateur astrophysicist lurking just under my skin, I have to look at the star maps in Stars Without Number as, um, hyperspace maps - maps that are only relevant to the extra-dimensional space that starships hurtle though. This space bears no relevance to real 3d space - just enough pseudo-logic so that the sleeping astrophysicist will not awaken and rain on my parade.

But . . . let's assume that the maps bear 'some' relation to real space.  Kevin Crawford says very little about the 'shape' of human-space, or its dimensions.  The most explicit snippet is this:

"By 2600, the frontier of human space extended almost ten years of spike drive travel away from Terra. Even after taking Jump Gates as far as possible, a fast pretech courier ship required a year to reach the farthest colonial worlds."

That date is just before the end of the Golden Age and the beginning of the Scream, so those dimensions should pretty much be the height of human colonization in the galaxy.  Ship technology was also at it's height, so spacecraft could jump one hex per day.  Ten years equals roughly 3650 hexes.  The author very carefully never states the size of hexes on the star maps, so if we interject Traveller sizing - which if memory serves correctly is one parsec, we get:

3650 hexes X 3.26 light years = 11,899 ly

So, human space has roughly a 12Kly radius.  A little image stealing and circle drawing gets us this galactic map:

That's a fair chunk of the galaxy colonized, but it still leaves ample room for who knows what.  Now, I can start thinking about SWN's 'Known Space' visually - inside my noggin.  Not that I really need to, but it's more comfortable that way for me.

So, that ends my thought experiment for today. :)

- Ark

Chinese Translation

One of my favorites.  Enjoy.  I'm sure it is game related somehow.  :)

- Ark

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Hit Point Survey

Warriors Experience Table, SWN, pg 21
Okay, so this isn't one of those 'click the button' surveys, but more of a 'response requested' kind of thing, involving standard D&D style hit point rolling.

Now, in all my years, I've been under the impression that when you level, you take your Hit Die and roll - then add your new hit points (and perhaps CON mod) to your existing hit point pool.  Everyone I've ever dealt with has been in agreement - it seems to be intuitive.

Stars Without Number has classes, levels, and hit points similar to D&D, but apparently, that's not the way you do it.  From page 23 in Stars Without Number, under the heading Hit Points:
"Don’t worry too much if you roll a low number. As your character gains experience they will gain more hit points and the chance to reroll poor dice. Some GMs may choose to omit the initial roll entirely and simply start new characters with the maximum possible hit points."
Unless I'm misreading, this seems to imply for SWN that, you reroll your hit point every level.  It's an interesting concept, if it is indeed the concept here.  Has anyone heard of such a thing?

- Ark


Apparently, a couple of weeks of regular gesture drawing is pretty effective.  This sketch actually looks like a human being - at least to me, anyway.

So watch out.  If you spill your beer, Oktoberbrawl Girl will kick your ass with a stick.

- Ark

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Dungeonspiration: Stars Without Number

I used to have a reoccurring dream.  Well, it was more of a reoccuring theme.  I would be in a comic book shop, or a book store, or a flea market in an ancient submarine, or in the Transylvanian basement of a fetid castle - and I'd be looking through boxes.  These were big long white boxes filled with every role playing game imaginable.  I would dig through them, looking for that one science fiction role playing game that had everything I wanted - good combat mechanics, good skill systems, good starship rules, and good universe generation systems.

I'd inevitably find some rpg system that had an awesome cover and everytihng I wanted inside - and I'd rush to the zombie check out girl or the auto-purchase-bot with a big smile on my face.  Then I'd wake up and start cussing - realizing that it was just a dream.

I've had that dream a LOT.  It's representative of my search for a perfect rpg in my younger years - especially a perfect science fiction game.  I've played quite a few - Star Frontiers, various forms of Traveller (black book, mega, 2300,) Space Master, GURPS Space, Star Wars - and read even more.

Okay, I'm not going to say that Stars Without Number is perfect, but damn, it's good.  It seems to fulfil the promise that Traveller made back so many years ago, but never quite delivered.

Traveller had a fun - if nerve racking - character generation system where your character could die before gameplay started.  It was great for generating back-story - but the actual mechanics were - MEH.  Stars Without Number takes good old fashioned D&D mechanics, simplifies them, and tweaks them with a light skill system.

There are just threee classes, Warrior, Psychic, and Expert - but the Expert - like LotFP's Expert class, is highly customizable with skills, allowing you to create anything from a doctor or spaceship mechanic, to a bounty hunter.

The game tosses out the good old hit charts and follows a simple formula.  Twenty always hits, one always misses, and you determine that with a d20 + your Combat Skill + Att Mod + Att Bonus + defender's AC.  Poof.  Beautiful.  I really wish the d20 developer dudes would have thought of this, rather than having to flip AC on it's head.

And you know when your first level psychic has d4 HP and a sniper rifle does 2d8 - only good things can happen. :)

Where Stars Without Number really shines though, for me, is in it's universe creation.  Just like in Traveller, you sit down and randomly roll up a sector full of stars.  In my youth, I loved this, and as other sci-fi RPGs were produced, they had similar creation rules, but they got more specific on the physical characteristics of various solar systems.

I loved the complexity and exactness of some of those systems.  Charting out how many AUs distant each planet was from it's star, calculating the specific density of a planet, determining albedo, etc - all these were great fun - for me - an amateur astrophysicist.

It never really translated into fun during a game.  Even if the players knew what the term 'albedo' meant, they wouldn't have cared to know that planet X925g-U had a rating of 57%.

Stars Without Number tosses most of the physical nuts and bolts and replaces them with - um - for lack of better words - a SCI-FI-TROPE-A-TRON-3000.

The default setting of the game is that humanity expanded rapidly into the galaxy, achieving amazing technology, then something happened to crash civilization and crash it HARD for a while.  Now humanity is rebuilding and worlds are reconnecting with one another.  You know, that old chestnut.

Rolling up a world, you might get something like this:

Atmosphere: Breathable mix
Temperature: Warm (could result in a desert or swampy type place)
Biosphere: Immiscible (i.e., you can't eat the natives)
Population: Hundreds of Thousands of Inhabitants
Tech Level: 4 - Baseline
Worlds Tags: Police State, Hostile Biosphere
Culture Base: Russian

Looking at the results, and the pointers in the book, a hundred idea pop in my head.  The first to come into mind is a place like Harry Harrison's Deathworld - a planet full of jungle animals and plants ready to eat anyone in a second.  But it could just as easily be a world reminiscent of earth in Stephen King's The Mist or frankly, Frank Herbert's Dune.

The creation process wonderfully tosses a bunch of tropes together and lets that pot full of 'kitchen sink' soup cook in your mind for a while until something awesome pops out.  Who gives a flip about the gravity of a world - unless that gravity is different enough to mean something and be a good plot device.

Star Without Numbers also allows for the same type of randomized trope construction of cultures, aliens, npcs, religions, political parties, and corporations. Each of these systems is geared towards creating conflict and issues that will provide ample adventure opportunities for the pcs, wherever they go and whatever they do.  It's a wonderful sandbox creation system, and very fun to work with.

I mean, I would have never thought to make up a low-tech world where the entire society had to hunt down alien whale-like creatures to survive, in some sort of Moby-Dick-gone-viral planet, but with a roll of some dice, my mind began churning along and I was there.

Sine Nomine published the original version as a free pdf, and I bought a physical copy of it.  Enjoying that, I grabbed Skyward Steel, which is a sourcebook for space navies.  I liked that so much, I went and got the updated version of Star Without Numbers from Mongoose - and it was worth it - rules for AI's and mech, and an entire world culture generation system.

I'm really impressed with what Kevin Crawford has been doing with this game.  I haven't been this inspired to run a science fiction game in quite a while.

So if you haven't yet, go grab Star Without Numbers.  It's free, and even if you don't intend to play it, it's chock full of good adventuring ideas that should impress even jaded players.

- Ark