Friday, March 30, 2018

The Movies of BlackStar

BlackStar is the working name for my "Star Trek meets Cthulhu" game and the material I am writing for it that may (or may not) see the light of day as published material.
There is a lot that is going into this, including years of my mis-attempts at SciFi games over the last few decades.  But today I want to talk about the movie influences that have gone into this campaign/game/idea.

I am posting this as part of the "GM's Cut" RPG Blog Carnival hosted this month by Codex Anathema.

The Movies of BlackStar

BlackStar, at it's core, owes everything to the WhiteStar RPG, which owes a lot to Star Wars.  It was during my playing of White Star that Black Star was born out of a desire to add more horror to my game. I always want to add more horror to my games.   While I loved SciFi novels, SciFi movies are my favorite.

Here are some of the movies that are going into my BlackStar experience.

Star Wars (1977)
I have said it before that Star Wars (A New Hope) is the perfect Dungeons & Dragons movie.  We have a hero, a villain, a princess (who is also a hero), an old wizard, a rogue, an impenetrable fortress (the Death Star), war, magic (tell me to my face the Force is not magic) and a quest.  There are sword fights, monsters, and interesting locales. It is D&D in all but name.   They even meet the rogue in a bar!

Not only was it out at the same time (more or less) I discovered D&D. It became so much a part of my experiences as a kid that is hard to tease out where one influence begins and the other ends.
I loved everything Star Wars growing up too.    I still have a couple of Boba Fetts (one I had to save proof of purchases for, one I bought) sitting on my desk.  I went from being a hard-core fan to a more relaxed one.

There is not a lot of horror here despite lip service to the "Dark Side", but that is fine.  Horror is a spice to be added to some things or a main dish.

Star Trek: The Motion Picture (1979) and Star Trek: The Wrath of Khan (1982)
Again, these movies are not horror.  But for horror to be effective there needs to be a "normal". For me my "normal" is not Star Wars, but Star Trek.  These two movies influenced my opinions of what a good Sci-Fi game should have.  I also feel that Star Trek: TMP is a vastly underrated movie.
The goal of BlackStar is to start it out as a "Star Trek"-like story but move it into a new and horror filled direction.
Why these two? Well to me they fit the ideas I want and the style I want. I am even considering setting my Trek-ish game in the time of the Enterprise C or after, but before TNG.
That is just details though.  I can do anything really, what is important to me is how do I do the horror?

Alien (1979) and Aliens (1986)
It is often said that the difference between horror and action adventure is in the Last Girl.  If she is a girl/woman and afraid, you have horror. If she is a big burly dude with guns then you have action adventure.  What if your last girl is Lt. Ellen Ripley? Then you have the Alien franchise.  But only the first two are worth talking about here.  Alien is straight up horror. Aliens takes that horror and turns it into a Sci-Fi action adventure. Both are good for what I want for different reasons. I want to do the opposite. Take Sci-Fi action adventure and turn it into horror.
The difference is agency.  In Alien Ripley is alone, with no weapons or resources.  In Aliens she has a pulse rifle, a flamethrower and a giant loader exoskeleton.  In my game I'll take away the characters power OR more to the point make them comparatively powerless in the face of the great evil on their doorstep.

Event Horizon (1997)
Jumping way out of the late 70s, early 80s here for this one.
Event Horizon is actually kind of a perfect movie for what I want to do here. Sci-fi, horror, alternate dimensions, lots of terror. The Event Horizon could have been a proto-Federation Starship too; or really a proto-Romulan ship.

Special Mention, Galaxy Quest (1999)
Ok. This is totally NOT horror.  Or is it?
We have a race, the Theramins (love that name) that are really squid-like aliens pretending to be human.  They can construct a complex starship from a TV show, but not realize it is a show.
Plus I have to give a nod to Galaxy Quest since it was one of the inspirations for not only the tone of the this game (light-hearted at first then soul-wrenching terror) but also my new Starship, the USS Protector.

For the record, you can see my inspiration for the Protector here.

I am also working on a list over as the Internet Movie Database on horror sci-fi films from the 80s (though I will consider 1979).

I'll keep you posted how the game develops.

Thursday, March 29, 2018

This Old Dragon: Issue #94

February 1985.  I was a sophomore in High School and at the very beginning of a campaign that would become known as the Dragon Wars and take me to my high school graduation and beyond.  In the theaters "Beverly Hills Cop" still reigns.  So tune your radio to 1985 "I Wanna Know What Love Is" and I wanna know what is in this issue #94 of This Old Dragon!

Jumping ahead a bit to one of my favorite covers.  Again we have Clyde Caldwell with one of his more popular covers in my mind.  This cover was also one of the ones I can remember thinking, "wow, who was the model for that?"  It is such a great cover really, that Ranger looks like she takes absolutely no shit from anyone that comes into HER forest. The little badger with the dagger? I love it!  I wish the rules for animal companions would have allowed such a thing back then.

This particular issue is in great shape, so I am able to see the ads on the back covers too.  Nice big one for Games Workshop.

Letters cover people complaining about the placement of modules in Dragon. Some letters on one-headed Ettins and the Dwarves of Gladsheim.

Big ad for the Dragonlance Dragons of Autumn Twilight novel.  This was a huge deal back then I remember lots of people reading it. I was dead center in the target audience back then.  Right age, right temperament. I had just finished Lord of the Rings but had not started on Elric yet.

The Forum covers various topics like are evil PCs "psychotic" and vital statistics.

Another big ad for the Indiana JonesTM game. You too can play as Indiana JonesTM or as any other character from the movies (because there is now character creation section!). 

Gary is up first with his From the Sorceror's Scroll.  Here we get Official Changes for Rangers.  I had a ranger of course at this point, but I rolled up a new one to test these new rules out.  I found it to be a fun experience to be honest and served me well for future playtesting.

Katharine Kerr is back with an article I used hundreds of times, An Army Travels on its Stomach.  While not groundbreaking, it is an excellent article and it should be read by every DM planning any sort of war.  This 7-page article details just about everything you need to know to get an army from point A to point B and everything they need in between.  PLUS it gave me great ideas on how to spy on an army.  They need so much in support personnel that a crafty spy can get in and out a 1000 different ways.

Great ad for the Time Life Enchanted World series.  This ad is sadly in better shape than my books!

Up next is an article I read, but never gave much thought too till much later in life.  David G. Weeks gives us some varying probability for dice combinations in Same Dice, Different Odds.  I used to do something similar in my Unisystem games to get more of a curve than a flat probability of rolling one d10; something that got nicknamed "The Chicago Way" on the Unisystem boards.  It's a neat idea really and one to try if you want to skew your probabilities one way or the other.   But it is not something I would do in practice very long.

In the "It's About Damn Time" department is an ad for the Companion Rules.  Though it only goes to level 25, not 36.

Some pictures from a recent miniatures contest.

Ed Greenwood (I think I am at the point where I can just say Ed right?) is back with another Ecology article.  This was one of my favorites. The Ecology of the Chimera.
For the record, I want to take back everything bad I ever said about Elminster back in the late 90s.  Re-reading these articles has given me a new, and I hope more mature, point of view on Ed's writing and his characters.

Another ad for the 10th Anniversary pack.  That is my Holy Grail item.

Playing int he Modern Era covers the new game "Mercenaries, Spies & Private Eyes". Arlen P. Walker reviews the game and two supplements. He describes it as a hybrid system between level based and skills based. He makes the game sound very enjoyable and compares it favorablly to other games.

Role of Books covers some of the new releases for 1985.  Of these, I remember R.A. MacAvoy's Raphael and Meredith Ann Pierce's Dark Angel the best.  I picked up both at the SciFi/Fantasy Book Club, but only remember reading Dark Angel.

'My Honor Is My Life' All About the Knights of Solamnia comes to us from Tracy Hickman. It's a fun read today as it was in 85.  Of course, it had more gravity back then when Dragonlance was the new hotness. 

Our centerpiece (and I have it!) is the Creature Catalog II.  I collected all of these I could with the idea of making an alternate Monster Manual to use to surprise my players.  In general the monsters here are not as good as in CCI.  I recall using the Lillend, Urisk and the Great Wyrm in my games, but not really the others.

Fortunes of a Fool by Nicholas Yermakov features another tale about the witch Baba Yaga.

The Arēs section is next.  First up some Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. including the older Nick Fury.

The Marvel-Phile has Hobgoblin, Kingpin, and the Symbiote Spider-man suit, not yet named Venom.

David Cook has interstellar government ideas for Star Frontiers in From Anarchy to Empire. This one of those articles where I catch Star Frontiers suffering from Traveller-envy.

Small ads follow this.

Wormy gives us four pages, Snarf Quest has 3 with a map.
We end with ads for Paranoia and Rolemaster.

So yes, a lot of great stuff in this issue.  While I can look back on this issue and see the changes I know are coming, that is not fair for a review.  We had no idea what was coming in the next year or so.  The "Hickman Revolution" wasn't (and might still not) be a thing. All I knew was AD&D was great. D&D was still fun and I was learning about more games all the time.

Want to know what I thought about White Dwarf from this time? Spoiler, it has one of my favorite White Dwarf adventures of all time.  Check it out, White Dwarf Wednesday #62.

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Review: Tomorrow Dies Today!

I have not done any reviews in a while and my pile is getting tall, metaphorically speaking.
The first one on my pile is a different sort of game for my blog, but not something I am unfamiliar with.  Back when I first got married and before we would do those old "How to Host a Murder" games with our friends.  We would have everyone over a meal and a murder.  It was fun.  This new game reminds me a little of that.

Tomorrow Dies Today
Tomorrow Dies Today is a 10+ player one-shot LARP (Live Action Role Play) by Sean Mooney designed to be played in two to fours hours.  So perfect for a dinner party with some friends who all want to be super-villains.  For your $20.00 you get a 135-page book with 11 character profiles.
Don't worry, this is not 135 pages of rules to memorize. 

The rules of the game are covered in the first 20 pages.  What follows next are the 15 or so pages for the Narrator of the game (doesn't have to be the host of the party).  Then each character gets 8 pages of descriptions and details. These details also include various props and mannerisms.

Print out the characters and review the rules with the group and go!

The basic plot is General Goodman has built a doomsday weapon and he has brought all his most loyal henchmen (the players) to witness his greatest glory! Except. One of you is a traitor!  You now spend the rest of your evening figuring out who that person is, or hiding it if it is you.

The rules exist somewhere between the free-form, if slightly scripted, play of How to Host a Murder and the "points and dice" play of an RPG.  Characters do have a character sheet/book and they do have points.   The Betrayer can be a different character each time you play, so that gives it more flexibility than others I have read and played like this.

While the setting can be "Mid 2000s" frankly I think it would be a crime not to set it in the 1960s.

For me, I'd invite my friends over for dinner, give them their characters ahead of time and let them do some free-form role-play, improv about their characters over for dinner and then get right into it.

I can also see this working well at a Con. 

So for 20 bucks you get a game for 10 people for 2 to 4 (or more) hours.  That really is a steal.

The art is great and the writing is very clear.

You can see some of the art on their Facebook Page.

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Arts & Crafts WEEK, Part 2: The USS Protector

I am still on Spring Break and loving it.   I should do this more often.

So while my wife is painting minis I have been working on my USS Protector model for my Star Trek game.

I have been toying with this idea for about two years now and I wanted to get something done.  So I pulled out my primed and painted models and started to work!

I started with my LEDs.  I bought a bunch of 12v 5a blue LEDs for this project.  I figured wiring them in first before glue and paint was the best.

Turns out I did not have enough room inside the NSEA Protector "wings" for the LEDs.  So out they came.

For the main deflector dish I drilled a small hole to feed the LED wires through and left the LED on the outside of the dish.

Liked the look of that better anyway.

I had a leftover piece from the GQ Protector, so I had my wife paint it and I fixed it to the top of the engineering section.   A ship like this needs an expanded engineering section!

Next I got the wings nacelles added in.  They are glued in yet. Still have some more trimming to do on them to make them fit.

Quick light test.

Added the ventral phaser array and drilled and cut a hole for the DC power adapter.

Next up I soldered these tiny ass 22-gauge wires to my power connector.  Keep in mind I wear bifocals and I have not soldered anything in nearly 20 years.

She snapped right in. After more trimming.

Some more paint and sculpty.

Sculpty is not dry yet.

Now add some decals.

Lining up my registry number.

Get them into place! (some "0"s died in this attempt.)

The lights work great!

Even the impulse engine and the bridge.

I still need to get it's name printed out, the "U.S.S. Protector" and get a few more decals on, but for the most part she looks great to me!  I might get around to doing some more painting...or more to the point getting my wife to paint some more on it.

I opted for "NX" instead of "NCC" since this is supposed to be a very experimental ship.

All in all, I am extremely pleased with this!  Can't wait to give it a go in my games.

This is a "Mystic Class" starship. Based on the original USS Mystic found here,

Previous posts in this series

Monday, March 26, 2018

Monday Mail Call: Monsters of Mayhem #1

It's Monday of my Spring Break.  I am getting a lot done over here but wanted to take a break and show off what came in the mail today.

+Mark Taormino's Monsters of Mayhem #1

While I have had the PDF for a little bit now I was waiting on this print version to sing its praises.   First off if you loved his adventures then you will low this monster book.

36 pages and 48 new monsters, each one more deadly than the last and just tons of fun.

You won't find these monsters in the Fiend Folio or Monster Manuals, nor even in the pages of Dragon.  But you will find them all here.

I have been waiting for a good reason to use a Demonica Gigantica against my players now for a while.

According to the book this is a small one.

Now how about 5e conversion Mark?

Sunday, March 25, 2018

Arts and Crafts Weekend, Part 1

I am on Spring Break!  So we spent the first part of my vacation working on various arts and crafts.  My wife painted a bunch of minis. I'll share what I did in the next post.

First up is a little Piasa Bird.

She did a Tiefling Necromancer and a gold skinned demoness.

She also worked on my witch Larina!

She looks great with other versions of her!

Larina and her daughter Taryn.

She also did Iggwilv for me!

Art imitates art!

Been a great time.  Love these little witches!