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

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.


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, http://www.mcfergeson.com/hobbycorner/2015/04/23/the-uss-mystic-a-kitbashed-starship-from-star-trek/





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