Showing posts with label BlackStar. Show all posts
Showing posts with label BlackStar. Show all posts

Monday, January 6, 2020

Monstrous Mondays: Star Jellies for OSR games

"Seek a fallen star," said the hermit, "and thou shalt only light on some foul jelly, which, in shooting through the horizon, has assumed for a moment an appearance of splendour."
- Sir Walter Scott, The Talisman (1825)

Star Jelly

Star Jellies, also known as astromyxin or astral jellies, are creatures known to fall to the earth from celestial bodies.  They are often found where a shooting star is thought to have struck the earth.
These are chaotic and evil creatures of alien will.   They will attempt to attach themselves to other life forms and feed on them.

Upon landing they will move, slowly to the nearest warm-blooded creature it can find.  It prefers humans and humanoids.  Once attached the star jelly will excrete a poison that both paralyzes their victim and causes them to have vivid hallucinations or horrible phantasmagorias.  The victim feels they are being attacked by creatures unknown and will attempt to lash out at them.  In truth, the victim is paralyzed and the jelly is attempting to digest the victim from within.

The jelly's only attack is an attempt to latch on to the flesh of a humanoid.  The victim gets a saving throw vs. Paralyzation (to keep from being paralyzed) and a save vs. Poison each round afterward to realize they are hallucinating.   Once attached the jelly will dissolve flesh, causing 2 points of Constitution damage per round.  The only way to remove a jelly is to burn it off or expose it to direct sunlight.  Something about the combination of sunlight and air damages them and they take fire damage per round in the sun.

Constitution loss is permanent unless healing magic is used.

Star Jellies have an intelligence, albeit an alien one.  They are immune to charm, hold, sleep, and other mind-affecting magics.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Star_jelly

Star Jelly
(Labyrinth Lord)
No. Enc.: 1 (1-2)
Alignment: Chaotic (evil)
Movement: 10' (30')
Armor Class: 8
Hit Dice: 2+2** (11 hp)
Attacks: 1 (special)
Damage: 2 points of Constitution damage
Special: Causes paralysis and hallucinations
Save: Monster 2
Morale: 12
Hoard Class: None
XP: 50

Star Jelly
(Blueholme Journeymanne Rules)
AC: 8
HD: 2d8+2
Move: 40
Attacks: : 1 (2 points of Constitution damage), causes paralysis and hallucinations
Alignment: Chaotic
Treasure: None
XP: 50

Star Jelly
(Old-School Essentials)
AC 8 [11], HD 2+2 (11hp), Att 1 touch (2 pts Con damage), THAC0 19 [+1], MV 30’ (10’), SV D17 W18 P17 B18 S17 (2), ML 12, AL Chaotic, XP 55, NA 1 (1), TT None
 Poison skin: Causes paralysis and hallucinations.

Star Jelly 
(WhiteStar)
ARMOR CLASS: 8 [11]
HIT DICE: 2
HDE/XP: 2/50
SAVING THROW: 18
TOTAL HIT BONUS: +1
MOVEMENT: 3
SPECIAL:  Causes paralysis and hallucination
ATTACK: by touch, 2 points Constitution damage
In the depths of space, their natural environment, Star Jellies are immune to the effects of sunlight.  They can also grow to very large size (up to 10hd) if given enough living organic matter to eat.

Wednesday, January 1, 2020

New Year's Day! What's New for the Other Side in 2020?

Happy 2020 everyone!  I expected to have more cybernetic implants by now, but hey at least we are not living in a futuristic dystopian hellscape right? Right?
Anyway.

I am now at a point where I can say I have been playing D&D for 40 years. 

2019 was my celebration of 1979, the year I first learned about D&D and started to play.  I thought that might be the end of my "Back to Basic" but I was wrong, I find I still have more to do and say.
If 2019 was my focus on Holmes Basic and the AD&D Monster Manual (my gateway drugs) then 2020 will be my focus on the Moldvay Basic Set and the games I was playing with that.

So here are some things I am looking forward to doing here at The Other Side in 2020:

Sci-Fi
This was a science-fiction Christmas break for me.  We watched The Mandalorian, season 2 of Lost in Space, we started The Expanse on TV.  We binged watched all of Star Trek Discovery and LOVED it.  Saw Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker in the theatres (I loved it) and we will see Doctor Who later today and then again at the Fathom Events special in the theatres.  We really had a great sci-fi vacation.  It all has me pretty pumped for a good Sci-Fi game.

The Expanse and Lost in Space have a grit to it that I really like.  Both also have some elements of horror to them I also liked.  All the things I want to add to my BlackStar game*.
(*just a reminder, BlackStar is not a game I am looking to publish, just something to have some fun with.)

I already knew that I was going to add elements of ST:DISCO to my game too, I just didn't what yet.  With Picard coming up soon, season three of Disco after that AND the re-merger of Viacom and CBS it looks like a great time to be Star Trek fan.

Both Lost in Space and the Expanse (pre-warp Sci-fi) have also refueled my desire to finish "Space Truckers."  I'd love for it to capture that late 70s Trucker movies and early 80s campy sci-fi.

Back To Basics, Year 2
2019's Back to Basics was so much fun I want to keep going.  Last year was mostly dedicated to Holmes and my weird Holmes/AD&D hybrid.  In the OSR this was best represented by Blueholme and Labyrinth Lord.

This year is the 39th anniversary of the Moldvay Basic set.  Though the copyright date is 1980, it is good enough for me to call it 40.  My focus this year then will be Moldvay/Cook/Marsh B/X flavor basic.   This system is represented best by Old School Essentials (formerly B/X Essentials) and Pacesetter's BX RPG.


I do have at least four more witch books I want to get out.  The Pagan Witch and the Warlock for OSE.  For BX RPG I am wanting to do a Diabolic Witch book and one I am calling "The Secret Order, The High Witchcraft Tradition".

The nice thing about The High Witchcraft book is it will take me full circle back to my original notes and witch class.  After this, I want to focus on other things.  I love writing about witches but I have more I want to do as well.

 So here is to a new 2020!

Saturday, December 28, 2019

My Next Kitbash, Federation Viper

I have some parts left over from my Protector kitbash model, and as it turns out they are exact parts I need for my next kitbash, a "Star Trek" style Viper from Battlestar Galactica.

So I have parts from this:


In particular, the nacelles, which is what I need.

Combine them with this:


Which I still need to buy mind you.

I can add the nacelles to the viper wings, modify the nose with a deflector dish (which I have). Change the red decals to blue, could just paint them on, put on the Protector's registry number NX-3120 and it will look like it is part of the ship. 

I did this mod years ago but I honestly can't recall what happened to it, it was 40 years ago. The one thing I didn't figure out then and still need to figure out now is how to account for those giant-ass thrusters in back.  I might need to 3D print some additional parts or see what I have laying around.  In my first version of this I used the V8 engine out of an 82' Corvette.

My goal is something like these:





At least that is the plan.  Have it ready for my BlackStar game. Imagine this going up against MiGo in space.

Hope to get working on it soon!

Tuesday, December 10, 2019

Review: Reimagined: Fanfic Role-Playing Game

Ok, now this is a fun one. At least it made me smile.

Reimagined: Fanfic Role-Playing Game

Reimagined is a "fanfic RPG" in which you take some other world and run with it.
If you have ever read (or written) fanfic or have a personal "head-canon" (or even know what that is) then this might be the game for you.

The author, Katarzyna Kuczyńska, comes in with some solid street cred, just different than what I have seen in the past.  This is a good thing.

The game is for two players using the X-Card system (a system I was not very familiar with).
You decide on the fandom, what level of romance you want (Gen, Lime, Lemon and Smut), what sort of story you want (lots listed) and who the charaters are and what the themes are.

Now you and the other player work out your do's and don't (or yeses and noes) and move on the storyline.
You have some tables you can roll on with a d6 (which makes it a game and not a series of collaborative storytelling).  The tables will depend on the tone of your game and type of story.

The players go back and forth being the "actor" and the "director".   I think with some tweaking it could be modified to accommodate more people and thus more characters.  This is one of those games where people that really know each other is where it would work the best.

There is also an example of play given and some examples of the worksheets filled out.   I love the example card shown of "Captain Carol and the God of Thunder" a Superhero story with Lemon (aka steamy) levels of Romance and tension.  On the Noes are "Children being hurt", "torture" and "alcohol" ok, fine and on the "yeses" are Dragons!


Images for illustrative purposes only...

Among our themes are "Superheroes Showing off", "Passionate Foreplay" and "Space Battles" you know...I am enjoying this one more and more.
The main storyline, "Heroes team up to save an alien planet using their powers and spaceship."

Seriously, how does that not sound like fun?


Seriously off the top of my head, I came up with about 30 fandoms this would work with.  Even some I wish I hadn't (gives the Mallfoy-Granger shippers some side eye).

I'd have to try it out. You need the right group to do this game with, but I think it would be fun. This is a very different sort of game for me and I want to try it out.

The PDF is full-color at 39 pages.  There are also extra sheets included.

All for $3.00. That's pretty good really.

Plays Well With Others: BlackStar

Of course, this got me thinking.  If this works well like this, maybe I could use the Story generation functions of this game in my other games.  Sit down as a Session 0 to determine what we all want to do out of a series.  IF that series is media-tie in, say like Star Trek, Star Wars, Doctor Who, or anything, then it might be a good starting point.

So.  Let me try it with BlackStar.

BlackStar is part of the Star Trek Fandom, but it also has heavy doses of Cthulhu.
It's going to be Dark, but Gen.  Sorry, there won't be time for romance among the stars for this crew, I'll save all of that for the Captain and the Thunder God above.

It is an Alternate Universe and partial crossover. 
The only character I know right now is Captain Valerie Beaumont.  BUT she is not in charge of the ship.  She was supposed to be, but it has been taken over by NPC Commodore Taggart.  He is the project leader and a complete dick.  So that will make up some of the interpersonal dynamics.

I want to cover the themes of "Horror in/of Space", "We are not alone", "Science as a Candle in the Dark" and "Adventure! ...but don't go insane."

I am saying yes to Monsters, Insanity, Death, and Visions of Hell.
I am saying no to Vampires, Klingons (sorry!) and no to Deltan and Betazeds.  Not because I don't like them, I love them, but empaths will have a really bad time here.

These are the voyages...
Yeah.  This sounds like fun.

Friday, November 22, 2019

BlackStar: Trek Videos

Been pretty busy with work and various projects.  But I am looking forward to doing some Trek gaming sometime soon.
To prep for this, I am watching a LOT of Star Trek videos made by fans for ideas.

Here is one that has a lot of ideas for me.
Since my Mystic Class is an NX or experimental ship, I figure it would be good to see some other failed Trek experiments.




And since the Mystic class also has the potential to be the fastest ship in Trek, but maybe not the deadliest, this one caught my eye.




For years I have been fascinated with the idea of Star Trek Phase II.  I am seriously considering having Xon show up in my game in some way.



I also wanted to learn everything I could about the Ambassador Class starship and the Enterprise-C




Wednesday, November 13, 2019

Plays Well With Others: B/X Gangbusters

Yesterday I reviewed the new B/X Gangbusters game and talked about its potential due to its Basic-era roots.  I stand behind that and a recent dive into some of my favorite Basic-era games supports this.  So let's see how well Gangbusters, B/X edition Plays Well With Others.



Realms of Crawling Chaos
Both are built on similar B/X designs.  Realms of Crawling Chaos adds Lovecraftian Horrors to your B/X Gangbusters games.  Both also support the same era of play, more or less, and have similar offerings in terms of playing normal humans. In fact, adding Realms of Crawling Chaos can add an edge to your "Educated" characters they might not normally have. 

Of course, at this point, you might ask why not just play Call of Cthulhu or d20 Call of  Cthulhu.  The answer, of course, is to be able to play this as a B/X game.

Amazing Adventures
AA is a Pulp-era game based in and on the 1930s; so about a decade later.  But there is still a lot in this game that would be helpful to the Gangbusters player or Judge. Not to belabor it, but the are equipment lists here that have different items that the GB Basic book.  The Amazing Adventures classes also give the GB Judge some go ideas for playing Powered Characters.

Basic Psionics Handbook
Moving further afield we have Richard LeBlanc's Basic Psionics Handbook.   While psionics have a "complicated" relationship to Fantasy games, they seem to work just fine in semi-modern ones.  In particular, a psionic wild talent would fit well into a GB game.  Let's not forget that the 1920s was also the time of Harry Houdini and his magic shows.  In real life he was a debunker of claims of the supernatural, but who knows what he was doing in YOUR world.

This along with Realms of the Crawling Chaos gives you a Lovecraftian style game that is less "Call of Cthulhu" and more "Cast a Deadly Spell".
I want to try this with a hard-boiled private eye that used to be a boxer and has seen a little too much magic.  I'll have to name him Robert Howard Lovecraft.

Starships & Spacemen 2e
Moving even further out from Psionics we have another one from Goblinnoid Games, Starships & Spacemen.  How does this one work?  Glad you asked!  One of my favorite Star Trek Episodes is "A Piece of the Action" where the crew of the Enterprise beam down to Sigma Iota II to investigate the crash of the Horizon from 100 years earlier.  They discover that the Iotians, a very creative and intelligent humanoid race, have recreated Chicago from the 1920s based on the book "Chicago Mobs of the Twenties", which had been published in (their version of) 1992.  The Iotians recreated their entire civilization based on this book.  At the end of the episode, it is revealed that Dr. McCoy misplaced his communicator.  Kirk and Spock state they will analyze the technology and that by the time they come back they could be the Federation.



There was an attempt to do a sequel to this by Michael Piller for TNG and some comics.  For me though, it was a throw-away section in the FASA TNG Officer's Manual that when the Federation came back to Sigma Iota II that they found a fully functional Federation style Space Station waiting for them.  Frankly, I would use that in a heartbeat for my own BlackStar games.  Maybe even adopt Piller's idea that this was a Federation, with the morality of the Chicago gangs.
It sounds like a lot of fun really.  I'd steal more ideas from FASA Trek for this too, including the interim uniforms they were using for the Enterprise-C era.   I will have to come back to this.

There is a lot more you could do with Gangbusters and the vast library of Basic-era B/X compatible material out there.


Wednesday, August 21, 2019

#RPGaDAY2019: Vast

Today's topic is Vast.

Vast. Seriously it is like it is too large of a word to tackle all at once.


To any PC in any sort of RPG the setting should feel vast.  For D&D it is can be the world or the known planes.  In sci-fi games, this can be the galaxy or even the universe.

But I don't write vast.  I write local.

Yes, there is a whole world out there, but how much of it are the PCs going to see? What do they really know about it?  Sure, there were people in the 13th century that had a pretty good idea what the world looked like, but did the peasants?

Let's look at Star Trek and by extension my BlackStar game. Because really, what is more vast than space?


That is a map of the Known Space of the Star Trek universe roughly at the end of the 24th Century.  My BlackStar game is likely to be set 50 years prior to this.
This is a LOT of territory.  The Sol system is where the larger yellow line is.  Click to see larger.

This is roughly 1,500 Light Years wide, of the Milky Way that is 105,000 Light Years wide, about 1%.

That's a lot of untold stories. 

I wish I had more time to do more!

Friday, June 21, 2019

Busy Week

Sorry for the lack of posting everyone.  Been a really busy week at work.

Here are some brief updates.

Back to Middle-Earth
I turned 50 last week!
So I decided to re-read the Hobbit and Lord of the Rings for something like the 7th or 8th time.
Finished up the Hobbit and I am at the part in Fellowship where the Hobbits have left Tom Bombadil's home.  I am likely to also re-read The Silmarillion, a book I loved much more than expected.

I am also considering picking up Tales from the Perilous Realm and The Adventures of Tom Bombadil, two books I ignored as being "too childish" for me...back when I was, in fact, a child.

Then To the Wizarding World!
Speaking of childish things, I have no shame in admitting that I enjoy playing Pokémon GO with my wife and kids.  We walk all over my son's campus (because apparently, I am not on campus enough now) and catch Pokémon.  We get out, we get exercise and we all do it together as a family.
So now we are all playing Harry Potter: Wizards Unite.  HP is a little more near and dear to my heart than Pokémon is. Though I have very, very fond memories of playing the Pokémon card game with my son when he was little and watching the cartoon with him.
Wizards Unite uses the same game engine as PG but with some differences.  More immersive.  I see more walks in my future with my family and both games.

BTW if you want to add me, here are my codes.
Harry Potter: Wizards Unite: 1990 1847 9214
Pokémon GO: 5190 6074 7972


Then Back to the Final Frontier
My BlackStar game is going rather well.
A couple of new developments.
First, I am going to be adding Kzinti as a race.  I am going to say at this point they are in an uneasy cold war with the Federation.  They are largely going to fill the role of the Klingons from the FASA Trek game.  Including the Klingon philosophy of "what is not growing is dying".   Again, this is merely background and I might set them up as the main antagonist for the "series" before springing the horror on them.
Second, I have gotten some GREAT ideas from a very unlikely source, the HBO series Chernobyl. 
I think this is going to be great.

I just need to survive the term start here in a week and I'll be great.

BTW I am now working on a new Graduate level Social Justice course.  This will be a lot of fun and I am really looking forward to it.

See you all next week!

Thursday, June 13, 2019

BlackStar: Launch Date 31165.86

It's my birthday! But I am at work today. Thankfully I was so prepared for all my meetings I got done early.  Thought I might share an update.

I have been working, slowly, on my BlackStar game.  This is still not something I am looking to publish mind you, just something to have fun with.  This is likely to be the most Trek-centric post of this series.
For this game I want to establish that the Universe, despite all it's wonders and dangers, is still a sane, ordered place. Yes, there are things we don't know but we are not incapable of knowing them.  So for me a clear starting point for the horror to come is a normal reality.  This is a process similar to what Stephen King uses and I can do worse than emulate him.
Part of my "reality grounding" was trying to determine when the game takes place.  The where is easy, the Star Trek Universe.  If I ever decide to publish in the future it is easy to remove that aspect and focus more on the things that are different, aka the horror, so anyone can add it to their own game.

I debated a lot with my self and with my kids about a good time.  Eventually, I went back to my original idea to set it in the era just before the Next Generation.  I can control the history and the future better from this point AND still have room to do what I want.



What do I know?

The Enterprise-C, commanded by Capt. Rachel Garret was lost in 2344, 20 years before the launch of the Enterprise-D in 2364 (SD 41153.7).  Since my ship is based on the Ambassador Class ship, same as the Ent-C it makes sense to set it closer to then.

We don't see many Ambassador class ships in the TNG time-frame, why?  I am going to say there was a design flaw that was later discovered after Starfleet Corp of Engineers went over why the Ent-C was destroyed.  There is a flaw in the nacelle arrangement that was missed in the R&D phase and only seen in practice.  This lead to newer warp nacelle configuration that gave us the Galaxy and Nebula class ships.  Despite living in the 24th century, human Starfleet personnel can still be somewhat superstitious and the Ambassador class gained the status of a "cursed ship".

This is also why there are 21 decommissioned Ambassador class ships outside of Neptune Station.   Here, Commodore Peter Quincy Taggert, with a signed order from Admiral Nyota Uhura (who had been fond of the Ambassador class and hated to see them go to waste), began work on the Mystic Project.  The NX-3100 (mislabeled on the hull as NX-3000 due to a clerical error) was developed at the Klatuu Nebula Yards in conjunction with the Theremin Science Council and launched to Earth on SD 30007.21. 

The Mystic, however, was lost with all hands en route.  Not destroyed, no one knows where it is.  Capt. Lazarus, XO Tawny Madison, and Chief Engineer Chen who were hand-picked by Taggert have been listed as "Missing in Action".  Yes, this might work for my "Ghost Ship" adventure.


The other ships were built with various levels of failure. The "Ambassador Curse" is in full swing on the Mystic line.

Presently the only ships in "mission ready" status are the NX-3113 USS Necromancer, NX-3119 USS Imbolic Mage and NX-3120 USS Protector.


The Protector was the first one ready for a full test of the new Warp-13 drive.  It is set to launch on June 13, 2352, SD 31165.86. (Exactly 333 years from today, on a Friday the 13th).


Wednesday, April 10, 2019

BlackStar: Old School Black Holes

Today is a big day in astrophysics.  The first-ever image of a black hole has been released.
The black hole is 500 million trillion km away, or 500,000,000,000,000,000,000 km or 52,850,042 Light Years.



When that light left the black hole's event horizon the Earth looked like this:


Just some perspective, plus I love those maps.

Much like magic, black holes have "suffered" due to the expansion of science.  What do I mean by that?

For much of the 20th Century, the black hole of science fiction was monstrous, mysterious, even evil thing.  A star that ate everything that came to close including light and time.  It's not hard to see why there were some sci-fi authors who categorized them as monsters.
In fact, this one is a monster. It is 40 billion km across and has a mass 6.5 billion times that of the Sun. For reference, the Earth has a diameter of 12,756 km and the Sun has a diameter of  1.392 million km.  That dwarfs the Sun more than our sun dwarfs the Earth.

In fiction black holes lead to other universes, often evil ones. Or sending people to different parts of the universe in defiance of any laws of relativity.  Indeed they were the ultimate "MacGuffin" to break all sorts of laws of reality.

BlackStar, as a game concept, really owes a lot to these older ideas of black holes in more than just name.

In truth, the ideas for BlackStar got their very first start for me in the 1979 Disney movie The Black Hole.  I remember seeing this at the 67 Drive-In in my old home town.  The movie is full of ideas that characterize what I want BlackStar to do and be even before I add the Lovecraftian bits.  We have a crew exploring space. There is a psychic crew member. We have an evil mad scientist in his old castle spaceship surrounded by mindless servants and evil strongman; it's practically gothic horror.  Even the tag line is horror, "A Journey That Begins Where Everything Ends".



Another black hole sci-fi/horror movie that was a big, if not one of the biggest, influence on BlackStar is 1997's Event Horizon.

In Event Horizon, we have a black hole, in this case, an artificially created one (like what we see in the Romulan Warbirds) that power the ship.  The mystery, and horror, of the Event Horizon, is where was the ship the entire time it's been missing.  We learn that the black hole has taken the crew into a hellscape not dissimilar to what we saw at the end of The Black Hole.  Claire Weir's, Dr. Weir's (Sam Neill) dead wife, tells us "I have such wondrous things to show you" brings to mind Pinhead's "We have such sights to show you" from the Hellraiser movies.  Indeed they can be assumed to be the same sights.



In both cases breaking the laws of physics, in both cases trying to move faster than light, opens you up to the consequences of breaking the Laws of Creation. The black hole becomes the proverbial gate to Hell.  Abandon all Hope Ye Who Enter Here.

This is made even more explicit in the Doctor Who episodes "The Impossible Planet" and "The Satan Pit" from 2006.  In this, the scientific portrayal of black holes is contrasted with the classic sci-fi portrayals.  In Doctor Who black holes are a means of travel. Gallifrey and every TARDIS is powered by "The Eye of Harmony" a captured black hole created by the Timelord Stellar Engineer Omega. It has as much horror as the engine in a Tesla sedan. Neat yes, but not horrible.

The Satan Pit turns this on its head.  Here the black hole "just eats" according to the Doctor. The black hole is The Pit, the jail that the devil can't escape from.  It is the Christian Hell or the Abyss.
Consequently, the episodes have been compared to "Event Horizon" and "Alien" by critics.


So that leaves me at today.  What can black holes do to inspire horror?
Much like "anti-matter" gave way to "dark matter" in the minds of the creatives, black holes have been largerly replaced by "Wormholes".   But even a wormhole is still sci-fi shorthand for "short cuts in FTL travel".  Sure they can be like "gates" but the fear is diluted.

I think where I am going to go with all of this is take a page from Event Horizon and make the drive of the new Mystic class ships be the problem.  They were designed to move faster than light, the heralded Warp-13 drives, but the real purpose is to open rifts in space-time to allow these horrors to come through.  Both sci-fi horrors and cosmic horrors.

Black Holes, like the God of the Gaps, has had its mystical notions removed for the more appropriate scientific ones.  As someone that originally studied to be an astrophysicist, this is a great thing.  But as someone who loves horror and sci-fi adventure, I feel like I have lost something.

Maybe Dark Matter and Dark Energy can be my new mysterious thing! In any case it needs to be frightening.  They say "in space, no one can hear you scream", but I also want "in space, no one wants to hear you yawn".

And this song was on my mind while working on this post.



Tuesday, February 12, 2019

Review: Realms of the Crawling Chaos

One of my favorite Old School books has been Realms of the Crawling Chaos by Goblinoid Games.  It's a nice blend of both D&D Basic-era (via Labyrinth Lord) and the mythos of H.P. Lovecraft.  We get a little bit of Call of Cthulhu and the Cthulhu Mythos from Deities & Demigods.

Available as a PDF and softcover for years it is now out in hardcover for backers of the Advanced Labyrinth Lord Kickstarter.


The book looks fantastic, as to be expected.









The hardcover book is 60 pages worth of material and deals with running a Lovecraftian-inspired game of horror fantasy.
A few new races are introduced for a Race-as-Class style game with notes on other classes to use in an advanced game; Sea-Blooded, Subhuman, White Ape and White Ape Hybrid.

Next, are some new magical formulae and some new spells all based on various Lovecraft sources. Enough to sprinkle into various dammable texts for the players to find AND then really get into trouble with.

We come to the monsters and all the old favorites are here. Comparing them to other sources of similar monster will give you plenty of differences in stats, which is a good thing really. Players who are familiar with other books should not have knowledge their characters do not.

A small section on Eldritch Artifacts, a staple of many of Lovecraft's mythos stories.

And finally a section on Psionics which differs from other books/games.

We get some appendices on Eldritch tomes and an artifact generator.  Appendix 3 covers the use of these psionic rules in Mutant Future. And Appendix 4 covers the stories and books used.

We end with the OGL section.

If I have one complaint there are no rules for sanity or madness. A fair staple of many Lovecraftian games.

The book is awfully fun and is full of great ideas.  If you are a fan of Labyrinth Lord and Lovecraftian tales then I would most certainly grab this.

For me, this is has been the "missing" part of both my BlackStar game and War of the Witch Queens.  I say "missing" but I have had the PDF forever.

This is actually a HUGE part of my BlackStar game.  This plus Starships & Spacemen So I am going to talk a little about in the frame of reference of that game soon.

Thursday, December 27, 2018

Spending some time in Zothique

I am living is a timeless void...err...or I am on Christmas vacation till the new term starts.

This has given me a chance to catch up on my blog reading and of course, I find some good stuff to use.

Zothique by Goulven Quentel

Eric Fabiaschi over at Swords & Stitchery has been posting about Clark Ashton Smith and Zothique for a long time.

Here are some of his most recent posts.


While I originally went into reading these with ideas for my BlackStar game, but instead I am more convinced than ever that an Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea game based in Zothique would be fantastic.


There is the Zothique d20 Guide from George Hager on the Eldritch Dark website.
Converting it to OSR-compatible stats is not difficult, but I'd need to read it over more for proper AS&SH conversion.


Part of my New Year's Resolution includes playing more "Basic Era" D&D and clones, and AS&SH is a part of that.  I figure before I take it and make something new with it I should at least figure out how it's played out of the box.

I do plan on hitting more BlackStar in the new year as well.

Wednesday, December 12, 2018

BlackStar: The Influence of Clark Ashton Smith

For the past month, I have been reading all the stories of Clark Ashton Smith in roughly chronological order.  In many ways, I like his works more than I do of H.P. Lovecraft's.  I find CAS easier to approach and his protagonists more relatable. '

Recently I just finished Marooned in Andromeda first of what is commonly called "The Captain Volmar Stories". The next one was A Captivity in Serpens and a third, which I have not gotten to yet, The Ocean-World of Alioth.  What struck me was how much they were like Star Trek.  Add in the Lovecraftian like horror of Marooned in Andromeda and you practically have a blue-print for what I want in BlackStar.

Indeed, the Trek connection has not gone unnoticed.  Ronald S. Hilger and Scott Connors the editors of the Night Shade collection in which all three stories appear make not of the similarities between Captains Volmar and Kirk.  Captivity in Serpens presages the Next Generation episode "The Most Toys" with it's crew member in captivity for a personal collection.

While doing some research this morning I came across the beginning of an adventure I had started back in the late 80s / early 90s for the then Next Generation version of FASA's Star Trek RPG.

I mentioned this last month as the adventure "Ghost Ship".  As time went on it was the Enterprise B (lost according to my notes in 2329, the Enterprise C was launched in 2332), but before that, it was the USS Excelsior.  In my document here it predates even that and it was the USS Necromancer.   Astute readers might recall that the NX-3113 USS Necromancer is one of the "Ships of the Line" of the Mystic Class.   The Necromancer seems to be a bit on the nose for this.  Instead given the writings of CAS and the main representative of his work in the OSR world,  Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea, it seems best to call the ship the NX-3102 USS Sorcerer.

I was thinking that maybe I could use the events of the CAS Capt. Volmar stories to give my Horror Universe a bit more of a backstory. Volmar's ship was called Alcyone.   The Alcyone system is about 445 light years from Earth, so not sure if I could say Volmar is from Alcyone. So I going to say that the Alcyone was his previous command.  His name is Howard Solomon Volmar since he has been compared to Robert E. Howard's creation, Solomon Kane.

There is so much more here too.

Seedling of Mars deals with an alien craft that lands in California in 1947 (the future from CAS' then perspective) that carries a group of scientist to Mars where it's one lifeform is a planet-wide hybrid of plant and animal that is near god like.  While CAS' martian is a benign entity, it does have the look of a Lovecraftian monster.  One could imagine a great Cthulhuoid beast in its place.  The deal that makes with humanity is less for their benefit and more Faustian in return.  Indeed in CAS' tale, the being wipes out much of the Earth's population but it's ok since those are the ones that were not scientifically minded.  The rest of humanity is relocated onto Venus. Still, while this story is more Science-Fantasy it just needs a nudge to push it out of the light and into the dark of Horror.

Clark Ashton Smith in My Games
It is fair to say that CAS has had more influence on my games than Lovecraft has, save for the effect Lovecraft had on CAS himself.
In my regular D&D 5 games (and before that) CAS has had a huge effect on my game universe as detailed here:


For these, I made a special effort to reread or in other cases re-read all the Averoigne stories to get a good feel of Medieval Horror.  It was great.

These days the Atlantis and Hyperborea tales of CAS are well handled by Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea.   Actually, I would love to use AS&SH as the system for a Zothique game.  I have already taken ideas from it for BlackStar and plan to have the PCs travel to Yamil Zacra: The Infernal Star.

Depending on how my BlackStar game goes I could conceivably pull another "Where No One Has Gone Before" and send the poor crew of the Protector to Earth, 250-300 Million years in the future.

I could combine this with the "Ghost Ship" idea above. Though that might be too much.
Alternately, I could alter my Starcrash on Hyperborea adventure idea to Starcrash on Zothique.  I kinda like that idea. Shades of "The Time Machine" here too.  It would also give the option of something I wanted to try in some other games.  I have wanted the PCs to run into their future-incarnations; their reincarnated souls as it were in new bodies.  The excuse I would give is that the Earth is so old now that old forms are being reused.

If I wanted to bring in some Atlantis I could just use some of my ideas for Doggerland.

The Black Gate ran a fantastic series on Clark Ashton Smith.  I won't link all of them here, just ones that are germane to this discussion, but they are all good.

Wednesday, November 28, 2018

Black Star: The Conqueror Worm

"There is no evidence of avifaunal or crawling vermicular lifeforms on Jouret Four."
- Data, Star Trek the Next Generation, Best of Both Worlds, Part 1

I had a Black Star post ready to go today, but this one grabbed my imagination a lot more.  I am currently reading "The Door to Saturn: Collected Fantasies of Clark Ashton Smith, Book 2" in it is a story, “The Kingdom of the Worm”, about an ancient evil kingdom of the dead and the giant charnel worm that rules there.  This reminded me of another one of my favorite Clark Ashton Smith tales, "The Coming of the White Worm", which I need to re-read soon.

While reading I could not help but think of all sorts of worms and how they have been used to terrify us. Edgar Allen Poe's "The Conqueror Worm" comes to mind, which also leads me to the Stephen R. Donaldson short story (from "Daughter of Regals and Other Tales") of the same name, though that one is about a centipede. Which of course made me think of the Sand Worms of Dune and then the Sand Worms of Saturn from Beetlejuice and of course the Sathar of Star Frontiers.

It is that last one that gave me the idea explosion that this post is.

Black Star is if nothing else, about exploring the horror that is space. Space is dark, I am just adding Eldritch Dark to it.

It got me thinking that a great adventure would be to have our crew check in on a planet, much like TNGs Jouret 4, that the entire population is gone.  They discover that they have all been eaten by worm-like creatures, maybe even the Sathar.  Of course they are nothing compared to the towering monstrosity that is Mordiggian, the Charnel God.  I had used Mordiggian and his ghouls once before in a Buffy/WitchCraft/Willow & Tara game which also gave me the spell "Lend Me Your Fire" (to appear in a witch book someday!)

In this adventure, the colony (shades of  LV-426 to be sure) is wiped out by the millions and Starfleet is sent to investigate.  There is evidence that everyone died pretty close to each other in time and there is a lack of bodies.  The Sathar have been consuming the dead, which is not typical behavior, and they are worshipping Mordiggian as their God of Death.  The real big bad here is Mordiggian.

The horror aspects here are of course the death of millions and the natural squeamishness many people seem to have about worms, maggots, and other eaters of the dead.  "Wormfood" is an evocative image for a reason. Also, there is the notion that Mordiggian is here and maybe he is a god maybe he is not, but did he come to our notice now because of the use of the new Triberyllium Warp-13 drive has opened our dimension to that of the Cthulhoid mythos creatures.

For sci-fi this is my chance to square the circle of merging Star Frontiers' United Planetary Federation and Star Trek's United Federation of Planets.

SATHAR (for WhiteStar)
ARMOR CLASS: 6 [13]
HIT DICE: 2
HDE/XP: 3/75
SAVING THROW: 16
TOTAL HIT BONUS: +1
MOVEMENT: 12
SPECIAL: Keen Senses (vision, smell)
ATTACK: by weapon

Sathars are long, worm-like creatures. Their bodies are divided into segments, like an earthworm's. They do not have a skeleton. Instead, they support their bodies hydrostatically, by pumping liquid into the segments so they become hard. A shiny, clear slime coats their skin. Federation scientists believe they are warm-blooded, but no live specimen has ever been studied. Their eyes are placed near the sides of their heads and contain double pupils giving them extraordinary vision.  They smell through two pits in front of their eyes.

A Sathar moves by slithering across the ground with the first meter of its body raised. They also can coil like a snake, raising 1.5 meters of their bodies from the ground.
The color of Sathar skin varies from yellow to brown. The tentacles are the same as the body, but with a slight greenish tint. The underbelly is pale pink. A pattern of dots, speckles, and stripes decorates the back of the head. These patterns are natural on some Sathar, but are tattooed on others.

Some survivors of Sathar attacks have reported that Sathars are not effected by electrical shocks, phasers set to stun or stun grenades, but these reports have never been confirmed.

Sathars are highly intelligent and have a space-faring culture found on the Frontiers of Federation Space.  They are considered dangerous even if very little else is known about them

Source: http://starfrontiers.wikia.com/wiki/Sathar

So, Black Star: The Conqueror Worm (Star Trek + Star Frontiers + The Kingdom of the Worm + Aliens + Tremors + The Charnel God).

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

At the Planets of Madness

Throughout October and November, I have been rereading everything from H.P. Lovecraft and Clark Ashton Smith.  In particular, I have been focusing my attention on their "Cosmotism" and sci-fi stories.  All the while thinking about how I want to approach my own "Star Trek meets Cthulhu horror is Space" game, something I have been working on under the title of "Black Star".

Of course looking at Lovecraft through the lens of Sci-fi rather than horror gives the stories an extra dimension.  Once I got back to the "Dream of the Witch House" and the equations of Walter Gilman I knew there was something there.  I figured what if we took the Gilman equations and used those to power Warp drive?  It seemed like a great fit! Really, really great.  Too great. I had to go back to my shelves and sure enough, the idea is not my original one.

Eldritch Skies was published by Battlefield Press a few years back does exactly this.  I was a consultant on the original Cinematic Unisystem version, but now you can only get the Savage Worlds version.

Still, I am pressing on to use the Gilman drive in my own games.  The Gilman equations are added to normal warp drive to produce the Gilman-Cochrane drives.  I'll adapt Eldritch Skies as needed with plenty of Lovecraftian beasties to fill my CAS-style planets.  Hey, it makes as much sense as the Spore Drive.

Converting the stories to Sci-Fi/Horror adventures is easy.

After the first adventure which is Star Tre + Galaxy Quest + Alien + Lovecraft + Event Horizon I figure I can do these:

At the Planets of Madness.  The PCs find a planet that is older than the known Universe! To make matters worse there is evidence of an ancient civilization.  (At the Mountains of Madness + the Image of Fendahl)

Ghost Ship.  The PCs find a derelict adrift in space and it is full of the ghosts of the dead crew.  Originally this was going to be the Enterprise B when I ran it as a pure Trek game. (The Haunting of Hill House, Dreams of the Witch House, the Flying Dutchman)

The Color out of Hyperspace.  A slow moving wave is "eating" up parts of space and everything in its wake.  (Color out of Space)

Starcrash on Hyperborea.  A shuttlecraft with the PCs crashes on a primitive frozen planet.   (Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea + The Galileo Seven +  All Our Yesterdays)

At least that is what I have so far.  I want to use more of Clark Ashton Smith's planets, in particular, his planets around Polaris.  It is also giving me a chance to adapt some Tékumel material to White Star.  This page on Wikipedia, Stars and planetary systems in fiction,  has been invaluable for finding planets and star systems I can use.

Much like Lovecraft, I started out in life as an astronomer.  Also, like Lovecraft, I discovered I lack the skills in math to ever get very far.  Though in my defense my wall comes up around Calculus 2.  I did go on to get a degree in Statistics and Measurement.   But the idea of using some long unused parts of my brain are appealing to me.

I have posted a lot in the past about various worlds.  All of these can be used too.


Time to boldly go where no one can hear you scream!

This post is part of my contribution to the RPG Blog Carnival for November 2018.
This month's topic is "All these Worlds..."
Looking forward to what my fellow RPG bloggers are doing this month and how many ideas I can use from them!



Wednesday, October 10, 2018

October Horror Movie Challenge: Forbidden World (1982)

Ah...not Forbidden Planet...but well you get the idea.
I was not going to do an 80's themed October Challenge without getting in a Roger Corman film.
Corman is up to his usual tricks here too, cheap sets, recycled footage, and beautiful women in various stages of undress.

The plot is one so old that even in 82 it felt old. Alien monster created by science gets loose in a lab and kills everyone.  But to Corman's credit, he still manages to make this old chestnut entertaining.
Our hero, Mike Colby, is a Federation Marshall sent to deal with the problem.  He manages to have sex with every woman on the base and still finds a way to allow everyone to get killed on the base.
Priorities I guess.

Still, if I ever get my Star Trek/White Star/Black Star game going again there will be a shape-shifting alien in the Jefferies Tubes killing people.

Forbidden World also features a Pre-V June Chadwick as Dr. Barbara Glaser, but she might be remembered best as David St. Hubbins' girlfriend Jeanine in "This is Spın̈al Tap".  Of course given that this a Corman flick the only way the two women on board can figure out how to communicate with the creature is during a scene where they shower together.

This movie has also been known as "Mutant".  The actual creature, as to be expected, looks nothing like the cover art.

Watched: 7
New: 3


Tuesday, April 10, 2018

The USS Protector game stats

USS Protector, NX-3120 
Mystic-class Starship (based on existing Ambassador-class refits)
Explorer/Heavy Cruiser/Experimental Starship

NX - 3120 USS Protector
Construction
Klatu Nebula Yards (USS Mystic and engine prototype)
Neptune Station (USS Protector; warp field configuration)

Ships of the Line
Each ship is listed as experimental due to differing warp field configurations and nacelle placements.  The overall length of ships can vary by as much as 50 meters.
Ships of the line are named after types of magic-users.  All 21 ships were built from refit Ambassador-class spaceframes.

USS Mystic, NX - 3100
NX-3100 USS Mystic
NX-3101 USS Wizard
NX-3102 USS Sorcerer
NX-3103 USS Thaumaturgist
NX-3104 USS Hierophant 
NX-3105 USS Mage
NX-3106 USS Illusionist
NX-3107 USS Summoner
NX-3108 USS Conjurer
NX-3109 USS Enchanter
NX-3110 USS Abjurer
NX-3111 USS Invoker
NX-3112 USS Diviner
NX-3113 USS Necromancer
NX-3114 USS Witch
NX-3115 USS Shaman
NX-3116 USS Incantatrix
NX-3117 USS Elementalist
NX-3118 USS Arch-Mage
NX-3119 USS Imbolic Mage
NX-3120 USS Protector

Geometry
Length: 700m
Saucer Section width: 324m
Nacelle width: 396m
Height: 102m
Mass: 4,110,000 metric tons

Personel
Number of Decks: 33
Officer crew: 320
Enlisted crew: 900-1,000
Comand Officer: Commander rank

Omega-13 Warp Drive
Cruising Speed: Warp 6 (392 C)
Top speeds:
- Traditional warp: Warp 9 (1516 C) / 9.4* (1753 C)
- Asymmetric warp: Warp 13 (5166 C)

*Asymmetric Warp has no known upper limit so speeds past Warp 9 will use tradition Warp calculations. Current top speed is Warp 13.

Impulse Drive
Full Impulse: .75 C

Armaments 
Dorsal, Ventral and Aft phaser arrays, Type 9.1 (Type X prototypes)
Four forward facing phaser cannons, Prototype
Fore and Aft photon torpedo tubes, Type 6


USS PROTECTOR NX-3120 for Star Trek Adventures

Systems
Comms 09
Computers 09
Engines 09/10 (for experimental Omega 13 Drive)
Sensors 08
Structure 08
Weapons 09

Departments
Command -
Conn -
Security -
Engineering +2
Science +1
Medicine -

Scale: 6
Power: 10 (based on normal crew compliments)
Shields: 13
Resistance: 6

Weaponry:

  • Phaser Arrays
  • Phaser Cannons
  • Photon Torpedoes
  • Tractor Beam (Strength 4)

Talents
Mystic-class starships have the following Talents:

  • Prototype (presently applies to all ships in the line with various modifications)
  • Improved Warp Drive
  • Advanced Sensor Suites


USS PROTECTOR NX-3120 for the White Star RPG

ARMOR CLASS: 7 [12]
HIT POINTS: 150
SHIELD STRENGTH: 20
MOVEMENT: 5
TARGETING: +3
RANGE:
ATTACK: Heavy Laser x5 (6d6) (Phaser Array), Laser Cannon x4 (2d6) (Phaser Cannon), Proton Missile x2 (8d6) (Photon Torpedoes)
MODIFICATIONS Advanced Shielding (3), Automated Weapons (16), Faster-Than-Light Drive (Warp Drive), Proton Missiles, Tractor Beam (2), Shield Capacitor

USS PROTECTOR NX-3120 for Starships & Spacemen

Ship type: Cruiser
Crew complement: 320 officers, 900-1000 enlisted
Command Rank: Commander
Power Pile Base: 200 energy units (two full pods)
Teleporter Capacity: 5 at a time
Beam Banks: 3
Ion Torpedoes: 2
Shuttle Ships: 12
Sick Bay Capacity: 60 (emergency to 200)

USS PROTECTOR NX-3120 for X-plorers

Ship Class: 4
Type: Cruiser
Crew: 320 officers, 900-1000 enlisted
Hull Points: 90
Weapon Damage: 3d6 (phasers), 2d8 (photorps), 4d8 (phase cannons)
AC: 14
NPC Skill: 14/12/10+
XP Value: 5,500
Cost Million Cr: 240



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).
https://www.imdb.com/list/ls023307178/

I'll keep you posted how the game develops.


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