Tuesday, May 28, 2024

New Dungeon Master's Guide Cover

 The new cover for the new 2024 Dungeon Master's Guide is now out and features some fan favorites.

Dungeon Master's Guide Cover

So we got Venger, Warduke, and favorite of the Other Side, Skylla!

When I started posting about Skylla years ago, she was a relatively unknown character save for some Old School gamers like me. Now, she is moving up in the world.

I like the red spine. Help differentiate them from my 5.0 books.

Skylla is looking good. I am hoping we will be getting some more of her.  Greyhawk will be the core setting so I am expecting more Tasha/Iggwilv material too. 

Cover Girl Skylla

I'll keep you posted on this new 5R version of D&D. 

Review: Alternity Star*Drive

Alternity Star*Drive
Continuing on with Alternity, I am turning my attention to the Star*Drive Campaign Setting. Before I go too deep into it I have to say that I think TSR, before their purchase by WotC was on track to making the same mistakes with Alternity that they were making with AD&D Second Edition. That is having a core system and too many campaign settings. Now, to be 100% fair here, Alternity only has two different but linked campaign settings; Star*Drive and Dark*Matter. Two and a half if you also count Gamma World. Two and two halves if you add in the Starcraft material too. But the seeds are here. Sadly, they never fell into fertile ground, and even the ones that did were not well tended to.

Star*Drive Campaign Setting

by David Eckelberry and Richard Baker, 1998. Full-color covers and interior art. 256 pages. 

This book still features the TSR logo, but all details of the company that produces it is Wizards of the Coast. I only point this out because it is a weird transitional time for the company and I can't help but think this as much as anything else sealed the fate of this game.

As with the rest of the classic Alternity material, this is out of print and there are no PDFs availble. 

Chapter 1: The Star*Drive Campaign

This covers what this setting is about and some basics and a timeline of contact with the Fraal to the modern day of the 26th century (2501).  Interestingly we are 100 years away from constructing the first Star Drive tech. This is roughly comparable to the timeline we would later see in Star Trek.  This chapter also discusses different ways to play this game. The feel is somewhere between Star Frontiers and Traveller, with dashes of Star Trek and/or Starship Troopers added in. 

Chapter 2: The 26th Century

An aside. Are we in the 26th Century because it is not the 25th century of Buck Rodgers? 

Anyway. Here we get an overview of what our setting is like now. Science, Technology which includes cybertech and biotech, mutants and psionics, medicine, and even religion, is covered here. There is not a lot of game text here, this is all an overview.  The religion section is interesting since it usually gets ignored by most sci-fi games. Unless it is Star Wars.

Chapter 3: Stellar Nations

This takes us into more detail of the who, what and where of this campaign setting and feels most like an extension of the Alternity rules. Note, not a lot of mechanics, but more information on material presented in the core rules. All of the species from the core are here, with their home worlds. Also, the various "Nations" in space, including the Solar Union (oddly not established in 2112). 

Chapter 4: The Verge

This is the area of unexplored space and the part that gives me the "Star Trek" vibes.  We are introduced to "The Lighthouse" which I will get into more detail about later on. Plenty of new worlds and systems are detailed, but the obvious thing here is that GMs will create their own worlds and systems. Still, though, there is plenty here to keep you busy. This section is the bulk of the book; over half. Game stats are largely limited to NPCs, some ships, and planets. 

Chapter 5: Hero Creation

This is the most rules heavy section of the book, but that is not say a lot. It is largely additional information to what is found in the Core Rules. The additions here include Homeworld or Nation and a few new careers. Though there are a lot of new details here that can affect every career. 

While there is a lot of material here, it is really all "World Building" material. While it is interesting, I don't find it compelling. Chances are very, very good that if I had played this game in the late 1990s, I would have converted it all to some sort of Star Trek-like game and used that background. In truth, I also find it less compelling than Star Frontiers, which tried to do something similar 15 years prior. I mean the Fraal are interesting, but they are no Vrusk!

Still I can't fault the game for what I want it to be, only what it is. It is somewhere between a fully realized campaign setting and a toolbox. Maybe if it had been allowed to continue on we could have seen more growth. Certainly, sites like Alternityrpg.net give credence to this idea. Their Star*Drive section certainly has enough to keep anyone busy for a long time. 

Select Supplements

I don't have a lot of material for the Star*Drive Setting, but I have some. Here are a few.

Alternity Star*Drive Supplements

Game Masters' Screen

This is lighter card stock. Not too different than some of the early D&D 3.0 screens. 

Gamma World

Softcover, 192 pages. Color cover, black & white interior art. 2000. This one has a TSR prefixed product code (as did Dungeons & Dragons 3rd Edition) but the logo and company information is all Wizards of the Coast.

I briefly discussed this one in my discussion of post-TSR-Gamma World offerings. This softcover book by Andy Collins and Jeff Grubb takes us back to Gamma World—or at least, a Gamma World. It is still Earth, and it is still post-apocalyptic. 

This book uses, but doesn't require, the Alternity Core. Also it feels like Gamma World. I think this is because the design of Alternity had Gamma World in mind. Mutants and the like are already baked in to the core so no extra rules are needed to add them, just some extra options.  

While the rules are 100% Alternity, the background sort of precludes Star*Drive. Unless of course you want the Galaxy to have moved on without humans and Earth is this wasteland, OR, this is different, very Earth like planet. Imagine the shock when space travelers from Earth/Solar Union find this planet out in the Verge and there is a colasping Space Needle in a town called Seatle. This is something that would work, and work well, in Alternity. 

I would say that if you like Gamma World and Alternity is your system of choice then this is the version of it to play. 


by David Eckelberry. 96 pages, color covers, monochrome interior. 1999.  This one has the TSR Silver Anniversary logo on the cover. Listed as copyright 1999 TSR.

This one is fun. Not only do we get some cool spacehips (always a plus in my mind) but there are alternate FTL systems listed here so you can have the kind of game you want. Me? I would have seen the section on Warp and never looked back. Though there are some other good options here including relativistic travel with time dialation effects. And get out your scientific calculators, because in relativistic flight you will need to caluclate gamma changes. Yes. This is a selling point to me. 

We cover basic spaceship operations, technology, some skill uses and most importantly Spaceships!  The last third of the books covers ships and deck plans with costs. Again, not sure how acurate the costs are, but who cares! Spaceships!

The Lighthouse

by David Eckelberry. Color covers, mono-chrome interior. 1998. 64-pages. Features the TSR logo of the late 90s. Contact information is all Wizards of the Coast. 

This is the space station mentioned in the Campagin setting. The cover come free (like the old adventure modules) and has deck plans for all (well most) 200 decks. The feel is a cross between a Star Trek Starbase and Babylon 5. 

The history of the lighthouse is discussed including why it was built. We get some details on it's various systems and who lives there. It is be necessity a broad overview, but there is enough here to let me really dive into it. 

One of the reasons I have kept this one around becuse the plans are really perfect for my various Ghost Tower/Ghost Station of Inverness ideas [1][2][3]. For this reason alone I am glad I have held on to this.


Alternity Star*Drive has a lot going for it. If you are a fan of the system then I think this is a must aquire set of books. It doesn't do anything above and beyond what we have seen in Star Frontiers, Traveller or many other games, BUT it has a great flavor and the oprotunity to add material from Gamma World, Starcraft and even their other campaign setting, Dark*Matter. 

Sadly all of this was superceded by the d20 system. Much of Star*Drive (and Dark*Matter) would go on to live in d20 Modern and d20 Future. I will deal with those in another time. Likely next May.

I can't say for sure, but I have the feeling that Alternity was never given the chance it needed to survive. Cut off early and not supported. We saw the leel of support WotC could give to d20, which was in truth their darling. Alternity was the lost and forgotten older sibling of d20.  I am happy to see it has support online and that it still has fans out there.

Monday, May 27, 2024

Review: Alternity RPG (1998)

 Here we are for the last week of Sci-Fi month, and I wanted to dedicate this week to the game I really wanted to love. Mind you, there is nothing wrong with this game; it just never had the chance to connect properly. But more on that. This week is Alternity week.

Alternity RPG Player's Handbook and Gamemaster's Guide

Alternity was a noble effort. A new Sci-Fi game that would allow you to play hard sci or science fantasy as you saw fit. It had a core system and there were supplements and campaign guides to extend from the near, and dark future (Dark*Matter) to the stars (Star*Drive).  Even Gamma World was updated to this new system.  It was, honestly, a wonderful idea. 

Sadly, Alternity suffered a fatal blow in the death throws of TSR. Published in 1998 it was the last RPG developed and published by TSR. Wizards of the Coast bought TSR in 1997 (and lets be honest, saved TSR in 1997). In 2000 the Alternity line was dropped. While you can find the Quick Starts online in PDF form, there are no legal PDFs of the Alternity game. There is an online community and a new RPG that uses the same system (more or less), the 1998-2000 version of the game is very much out of print.

For this review, I am going to focus on my print copies.

Alternity Player's Handbook (1998)
Alternity Player's Handbook (1998)

by Bill Slavicsek and Richard Baker. Full-color covers and interior art. 256 pages.
Art by rk post, Todd Lockwood, William O'Connor, Dennis Kauth, Rob Lazzaretti.

Released, April 1998.

Let me start with the look and feel of this game. If you are familiar with the later TSR offerings, in particular the Revised 2nd Edition of AD&D, then you will get a good idea for the art and layout here. Picking up the books they feel "familiar." Though I can't help but smile at the "lens flare" in the Alternity logo. Hey, we are all allowed to use a lens flare once non ironically and if you can't do it in 1998 then when can you? This does make me feel nostalgic for late 90s.  

Authors Bill Slavicsek and Richard Baker had grand hopes for this game in 1998, and their love for it shows throughout the book. Whatever other issues I might have with this system (and spoilers: they are minor), their efforts here are not among them. They start be justifiably comparing what they are doing to Dungeons & Dragons. Rereading these rules now, so many years later, the similarities are much closer than I recalled. 

I am breaking out the chapters into sections here since they are largely mirrored in the Gamemaster's Guide.


This covers the basics. What is role-playing, what is this game and so on. Veterans can skip this, but there is some good insight here about what they are trying to do. 

Chapter 1: Fast-Play Rules

This covers the game in a very fast-paced and simplified manner. Designed to get everyone up and running right away. Personally, I like the idea, but I wonder if it is not better served with a PDF or a soft-cover freebie alone and not included in this book. Granted, in 1998, not as many people were on the internet, and freebie printed products were likely still too much for a company that had just been rescued from financial oblivion. Still, we are only talking about a handful of pages here, and it really helps set the stage for what is to come. The Gamemaster's Guide also had a free PDF.

Note: The new Alternity also offers this for free for their updated version. 

Chapter 2: Hero Creation

What is says on the tin. We have nine steps in our hero creation, which feels very, very similar to D&D. Even the six attributes are similar. You choose a concept, a species (Fraal, Mechalus, Sesheyan, T'sa, Weren, and Human), and a Career and Profession. Careers are your concept in a few words and Professions are bit like classes, but certain skills and abilities are cheaper/easier to acquire. So anyone can take any skill, some are just easier. It's a good approach. The Professions are Combat Specialist, Diplomat, Free Agent, Tech Operative, and the psionic Mindwalker. Mindwalkers are detailed later.

Ability scores are assigned, largely compatible with AD&D scores. Some species have ability score minimums and maximums. Skills are also bought/assigned. Some species lend themselves to some skill easier. The Mechalus, for example, get computer science for free. Weren get unarmed attacks.

Characters get perks and flaws, a popular game design choice of the later 90s. Choose some attributes, and complete the character sheet. I'll work through an example later this week.

Chapter 3: Heroes in Action 

This chapter covers the basic rules of the game. The basic idea here is to roll a d20, sometimes with some additional dice as a bonus or penalty, and roll under a given margin. The additional dice are called "steps" and they change based on the situation. Trying to reprogram a computer when you are at ease, have all the time in the world and it is a system you know well might be a "Cakewalk" step. So you roll your d20 and then roll a d12, you minus whatever you get on the d12 from the d20 for your final result. Remember rolling low here is good. On the other hand reprogramming the same computer in another language while being shot at might be a "Grueling" step. So roll a d20 and add another d20 to that! There are plenty of examples given in the book.

Dice Steps Difficulty

Which skills and abilities to use in what situation are also covered. 

Combat is a big one and here we have four types of damage. Stun, Wound, Mortal, and Fatigue. Anyone one can incapacitate a character. Ok four damage types is not ideal in my mind, but it works here and that is fine with me. 

Chapter 4: Skills

This covers the skills, how they work and where they are used. As expected for the time there are LOT of skills here. Of course the advantage to this is character customization is great. 

Chapter 5: Perks & Flaws

These sorts of mechanics were very popular starting in the 80s and into the 90s. These also help improve or hinder a character to some degree or provide some role-playing fodder. Many here are common ones you see in other games. Ones to make the character harder to kill (Tough as Nails), lucky (Good Luck), Ambidextrous, Great Looking, and more. These sorts of things are still popular in newer games, but to a lesser degree.  Flaws work the same way. Bad Luck, Powerful Enemy, Fragile, and so on. 

Chapter 6: Sample Careers

The flexibility of this game is baked in. Here we only get a sampling of potential careers. The various supplements can (and will add) more. Not a long chapter, but long enough.

Chapter 7: Attributes

These are character "tags" and descriptors that help round out the character. They include various Motivations, Moral Attitudes, and Character Traits. I can't help but notice that is pretty much all some new games have for their character-building. Also not a long chapter. 

Chapter 8: Achievements

The Achievement Point system works a little different than the typical XP system that many readers of this game would have been used to. These allow the character to advance skills, add a new perk, remove a flaw, and so on. 

Chapter 9: Goods & Services

Our goods and equipment chapter. Important here is the PL or Progress Level of the game and the place where the characters will be buying things. The PL of our current time is PL5 or Information Age. D&D, not counting the effects of magic, is PL 2. Star Trek is PL 7. There is a rough timeline from 4,000 BCE to 5000+ CE. 

Lots of fun things here too. I am not going to gripe about some of the "future tech" projections that are a bit off. Instead I will point out that they do a better job than many other games. Speaking of which...

Chapter 10: Computers

Covers the ubiquitous computers of all sci-fi games. There is a great little overview of Computers through the ages which is a good read. I do like how they try to get cyberware and computers right into the core rules from the start.

Chapter 11: Weapons & Armor

Again, what is says. PL values are given. I didn't see anything to adjust prices based on PL, but I could have missed it. I guess that is the biggest fiction of all here, that standard wages keep up with inflation and supply/demand. This is fine. This is a sci-fi RPG, not an econ textbook.

I am not one to get all gaga over guns, but I do love some sci-fi weapons. Give me lasers, phaser, pulse rifles, I love them all. 

Chapter 12: Vehicles

This covers both personal craft and space ships. There are more in the Star*Drive game. 

Chapter 13: Mutations

I think Gamma World was very much on their minds here. 

Chapter 14: Psionics

Ah, now I look forward to this chapter in every sci-fi game I read. This covers the powers and Mindwalkers. The idea here is to be a really good psionic character who have to train for it. This fits. The feel here is solid Babylon 5 and Catspaw by Joan D. Vinge. Mind you these are good things. 

Cyber Characters

Chapter 15: Cybertech

It has been threaded through out the game, but this chapter cover cyberware and cybertech (it was the late 90s remember) in detail. 

We end with some compiled tables, an Index and character (Hero) sheets.

Alternity Gamemaster's Guide (1998)
Alternity Gamemaster's Guide (1998)

by Richard Baker and Bill Slavicsek. Full-color covers and interior art. 256 pages.
Art by rk post, Charles Bernard, D. Alexander Gregory, Hannibal Kings, Terese Nelson.

Released May, 1998.

Notable, the authors' order is swapped on the cover. While reading this, I felt that this was a full joint effort.

The layout and organization mirrors that of the Player's Handbook. One thing is pretty clear that Game Masters should (maybe "need" is a better word) read both books. 

The Gamemaster's Guide has an Introduction, Chapter 1: Fast-Play Rules, and Chapter 2: Hero Creation, just like the Player's book, but from the Game Master's perspective. This includes what to allow (or not allow) during character creation. The same is true for Chapters 4 and 5, Skills and Perks & Flaws, respectively.  

Chapter 3 is Gamemasters in Action. This is more detail on the rules of play. The GM side of the Heroes in Action chapter in the Player's book.

The biggest changes from the format come in Chapters 11 to 17. 

Chapters 10 and 11 cover Vehicles and Spaceships, respectively. Now I love Starship and Spaceship design. So this is a chapter I kept coming back to, just like I did during my days with Traveller and Star Frontiers. Spaceship design and creation might be more fun than character creation to be honest.

Chapter 12: Alien Artifacts

This would be the "magic items" chapter in D&D-like games. There are some good background details here to add to the campaign chapters (13 and 14) that follow. 

Chapter 13: Campaign DesignChapter 14: Campaign Architecture, and Chapter 15: Adventure Design

 These chapters detail how to create your own campaigns. They are both about 20 or so pages of material. More details are given in the various campaign settings. Still, there is enough here to keep any sci-fi busy for a while.

Chapter 16: Optional Rules

Mutants, Psionics, Cybertech, AI, and FX are all covered here. FX, which is short for "Special Effects" (here and elsewhere), deals with all the other sorts of things in the game, like magic, miracles, and superscience. Normally, I don't like to mix magic and sci-fi, but in this game, I didn't mind it, really. Maybe it was more due the Dark*Matter setting.

Chapter 17: Creatures & Aliens

People who want to meet or eat you. The stat blocks are similar to PC/NPCs. They remind me a lot of Gamma World in terms of layout and presentation. There are some animals (earth standard) and some templates for alien animals. 


This fun appendix covers converting AD&D 2nd Ed Characters to Alternity and back.  It's actually kind of fun and I admit, one of the first chapters I first went to when I first started looking into this game.

AD&D 2e to Alternity

We end with an index, spaceship sheets, system sheets, and a bibliography. 


I wanted to love this game. I really did. So here is what works and doesn't for me.

I love what the developers were trying to do here, a system to cover all sorts of different kinds of sci-fi. A way to combine genres like Gamma World, Traveller and Star Frontiers. Plus I love the style of this game. 

While it has a certain "AD&D meets GURPS IN SPAAACE!" vibe, I really like this vibe. This is increased when we bring in the Dark*Matter and Star*Drive settings. 

On the downside, this game suffered from the death of TSR. While reading the history of the company pretty much guaranteed the game was doomed from the start, this was sealed when the d20 system was introduced.  The d20 system did everything the Alternity system was trying to do and then some more. This becomes obvious in the d20 Future book, which includes Alternity and Star Frontiers material.

The system itself, while it takes some of the best of AD&D, also has some of its problems. They tried to patch over them, so some degree of success, but not say as much as the d20 system would later do. 

I know that there was not a lot of love for this system back in the day. Again, I wanted to love it, and Dark*Matter in particular. Well, I discovered the WitchCraft RPG at the same time, and that was pretty much love at first sight. But like many games, I kept coming back to it and thinking, "What if..." 

Re-reading it now, many years later, I still see that it has all of the elements of things I would love. They are all here, but maybe not in the order I need them to be. But there is still a really fun game here, and I am looking forward to exploring it more.

Alternity RPG Today

While the original Alternity RPG is out of print, there are still options for players today.

There is the new Alternity RPG out. Richard Baker, who was half of the original team, worked on this version. I like it and I will try to review it at some point.

There is also a great Alternity RPG website with a LOT of material. There is so much here I might have to spend some time reviewing it as well. 

Looking forward to getting into my other Alternity books.

Sunday, May 26, 2024

Dracula, The Hunters' Journals: 26 May Telegram from Arthur Holmwood to Quincey P. Morris.

 A note from Arthur to Quincey

Dracula - The Hunters' Journals

Telegram from Arthur Holmwood to Quincey P. Morris.

26 May.

“Count me in every time. I bear messages which will make both your ears tingle.




Moon Phase: New Moon

Not much here. But I do want to call out the use of the Telegram.  Later on, we will see Harker trying to pass a note to the Count's servants to get a message back to London. These two methods, telegrams and letters, help show the divide between our heroes and Dracula even more.

I wonder if a tale like this could have been done in any other time and done as well. The Victorian, especially the late Victorian, was on the cusp of a brand-new world. The 20th Century would shrink the world down to just one place in the minds of many. World Wars I and II would later make this painfully and tragically obvious. But for now, in the 1890s, there are still "two worlds," the Old World and the New World. Our heroes are firmly part of the New.

Also, Dracula was published on this day in 1897.

Review: Star Frontiers, Alpha Dawn and Knight Hawks

Star Frontiers, First Edition
NOTE: This is repost from 2021. My coverage of TSR's Sci-Fi offerings would not be complete without this. Plus I want to do this before tackling Alternity later on.


Gamma World might have been TSR's first big entry into sci-fi gaming (Warriors of Mars and Metamorphosis Alpha non-withstanding), but it was not their biggest.  While I don't have any hard numbers in front of me, I am going to have to say that Star Frontiers edges out the later Alternity in terms of popularity.  It was certainly built at the height of TSR's fame with the first edition, simply Star Frontiers, published in 1982 with the new edition and trade-dress Star Frontiers: Alpha Dawn and Star Frontiers: Knight Hawks.

Certainly, in terms of fans, Star Frontiers has Alternity beat.  But more on that soon.

For this review, I am considering the PDFs and Print on Demand versions of both Star Frontiers: Alpha Dawn and Star Frontiers: Knight Hawks. I am also going to go with my recollections of playing the game when it first came out.

The Alpha Dawn book is designed by "TSR Staff Writers" but we know ow that a huge bulk of the work was done by David "Zeb" Cook and Lawrence Schick.  Knight Hawks was designed primarily by Douglas Niles.  The cover art in both cases was done by Larry Elmore with interior art by Elmore and Jim Holloway with contributions by Jeff Easley, Tim Truman, and even some Dave Trampier.  Keith Parkinson would go on to do some other covers in line as well.  

While originally boxed sets (gotta love the early 1980s for that!) the PDFs break all the components down into separate files. Handy when you go to print the counters or the maps.  The Print on Demand versions put all the files together into an attractive soft-cover book for each game.  The maps are published in the back, but you will want to print them out for use. 

Star Frontiers, Print on Demand

Both books are easy to read and really nice.  They have been some of my favorite Print on Demand purchases ever.

Let's look into both games.

Star Frontiers: Alpha Dawn
Star Frontiers: Alpha Dawn

Alpha Dawn is the original Star Frontiers game.  The box game with two books, a Basic and Expanded game rules, some maps, counters, and two 10-sided dice.  The rules indicate that one is "dark" and the other "light" to help when rolling percentages, but mine were red and blue.  Go figure.

The Basic Game is a 16-page book/pdf that gives you the very basics of character creation.  There are four stat pairs, Strength/Stamina, Dexterity/Reaction Speed, Intelligence/Logic, and Personality/Leadership.  These are scored on a 0 to 100 scale, but the PCs will fall between 30 and 70.  Higher is better. These can be adjusted by species and each individual score can also be changed or shifted. 

The four species are humans, the insect-like Vrusk, the morphic Dralasites, and the ape-like Yazirian. Each species of course has its own specialties and quirks.  I rather liked the Dralasites (whom I always pronounced as "Drasalites") because they seemed the oddest and they had a weird sense of humor. 

We are also introduced to the worm-like Sathar. These guys are the enemies of the UPF (United Planetary Federation) and are not player-characters. 

The basics of combat, movement, and some equipment are given.  There is enough here to keep you going for bit honestly, but certainly, you will want to do more.  We move on then to the Expanded rules.

The Expanded Rules cover the same ground but now we get more details on our four species and the Sathar.  Simple ability checks are covered, roll d% against an ability and match it or roll under.

Characters also have a wide variety of skills that can be suited to any species, though some are better than others, Vrusk for example are a logical race and gain a bonus for that.  Skills are attached to abilities so now you roll against an ability/skill to accomplish something.  Skills are broken down into broad categories or careers; Military, Tech, and Bio/Social. 

Movement is covered and I am happy to say that even in 1982 SF had the good sense to go metric here. 

There are two combat sections, personal and vehicle.  These are not starships, not yet anyway, and were a lot of hovercars and gyro-jet guns. 

There is a section on creatures and how to make creatures. I am afraid I took that section a little too close to heart and most of my SF games ended up being "D&D in Space" with the planets being used as large dungeons.

The background material in the Frontier Society though is great stuff. I immediately got a good just of what was going on here and what this part of the galaxy was like.  While Earth was never mentioned, you could almost imagine it was out there somewhere. Either as the center of UPF (Star Trek) or far away, waiting to be found (Battlestar Galactica).  

This book also includes the adventure SF-0: Crash on Volturnus.

When it comes to sci-fi some of the rules have not aged as well. Computers still feel very limited, but the idea that as we approach the speed of light we can enter The Void has its appeal.  

Star Frontiers: Knight Hawks
Star Frontiers: Knight Hawks

Ah. Now this game.  Star Frontiers was great, but this game felt like something different. Something "not D&D" to me.

In fact I have often wondered if Knight Hawks had not been a separate game in development by Douglas Niles that they later brought into the Star Frontiers line. I also think that TSR was also suffering a little bit of what I call "Traveller Envy" since this can be used as an expansion, a standalone RPG, and as a board game!

Like Alpha Dawn, this game is split into four sections.  There is a "Basic" game, and "Advanced" or "Expansion" rules (and the bulk of the book), an adventure, "The Warriors of White Light", and all the counters and maps.

As far as maps go, that hex map of empty space is still one of my favorites and fills me with anticipation of worlds to come. 

The PDF version splits all this into four files for ease of printing or reading.  The Print on Demand book is gorgeous really.  Yes...the art is still largely black and white and the maps and counters are pretty much useless save as references, but still. I flip through the book and I want to fire up the engines of my characters' stolen Corvette, the FTL Lightspeed Lucifer. Complete with the onboard computer they named Frodo.

The Basic rules cover things like ship movement, acceleration, and turning, along with ship-to-ship combat.  By itself, you have the rules for a good ship combat board game. It works fine as long as you don't mind keeping your frame of reference limited to two-dimensional space. 

The Expanded rules tie this all a little closer to the Alpha Dawn rules, but I still get the feeling that this may have started out as a different sort of game that was later brought into the fold of Star Frontiers.  

Ships are largely built and there is a character creation feel to this.  Their 80's roots are showing, no not like that, but in that, the best engines you can get for a starship are atomic fission.  Of course, no one just gets a starship, you have to buy it and that often means taking out a loan or doing a bunch of odd jobs to raise the credits. Often both.  I don't think I ever actually bought a ship. The Lucifer was stolen.

There is also quite a bit on the planets of the UPF, Frontier Space, and the worlds of the Sathar.  It really had kind of a "Wild West" meets the "Age of Sail" feel to it. 

The last part of the POD book is the adventure "The Warriors of White Light" with its various scenarios. 

Minus two d10s everything is here for an unlimited number of adventures in Frontier Space.  Rereading it now after so many years I can't help but dream up various new adventures. I also can't help to want to use the Sathar in some of my other Sci-fi games.  They have such untapped potential.

The price for these books is perfect.  Grab the PDF and POD combo.  Get some d10s, load your gyrojet gun and get ready to make the jump to the Void. There are new planets to discover!

Parts of Star Frontiers, in particular the species, would find new life in D20 Future, part of the D20 Modern line.

Both games are fun, but suffer from and/or benefit from the design principles of the time. Newer players might find some of the game elements dated. Older players of the games will find them nostalgic.  Personally reading through them now some 40 years after first reading them I get a lot more enjoyment from the rules.  Back then I was really too D&D focused to really enjoy what I had in front of me. Today, well I can't wait to stat up a character or two and a starship.

Star Frontiers on the Web

There are many places where Star Frontiers is alive and well. There used to be more, but my understanding is a predatory grab for the trademark by another RPG company caused Hasbro/WotC to exercise their legal rights and bring the game back in-house. While that did screw over the amazing work done by the fan sites, there are still many up and providing new material for the game.  

For these fans and sites, Star Frontiers never went away.

Don't forget our campaign for Thirteen Parsecs is still going strong!

Saturday, May 25, 2024

Dracula, The Hunters' Journals: 25 May Dr. Seward's Diary (Kept in phonograph); Letter, Quincey P. Morris to Hon. Arthur Holmwood.

 Our three suitors for Lucy's ill-fated heart arrive on the scene. We are also introduced to R.M. Renfield. 

Dracula - The Hunters' Journals

Dr. Seward’s Diary.

(Kept in phonograph)

25 May.—Ebb tide in appetite to-day. Cannot eat, cannot rest, so diary instead. Since my rebuff of yesterday I have a sort of empty feeling; nothing in the world seems of sufficient importance to be worth the doing.... As I knew that the only cure for this sort of thing was work, I went down amongst the patients. I picked out one who has afforded me a study of much interest. He is so quaint that I am determined to understand him as well as I can. To-day I seemed to get nearer than ever before to the heart of his mystery.

I questioned him more fully than I had ever done, with a view to making myself master of the facts of his hallucination. In my manner of doing it there was, I now see, something of cruelty. I seemed to wish to keep him to the point of his madness—a thing which I avoid with the patients as I would the mouth of hell.

(Mem., under what circumstances would I not avoid the pit of hell?) Omnia Romæ venalia sunt. Hell has its price! verb. sap. If there be anything behind this instinct it will be valuable to trace it afterwards accurately, so I had better commence to do so, therefore—

R. M. Renfield, ætat 59.—Sanguine temperament; great physical strength; morbidly excitable; periods of gloom, ending in some fixed idea which I cannot make out. I presume that the sanguine temperament itself and the disturbing influence end in a mentally-accomplished finish; a possibly dangerous man, probably dangerous if unselfish. In selfish men caution is as secure an armour for their foes as for themselves. What I think of on this point is, when self is the fixed point the centripetal force is balanced with the centrifugal; when duty, a cause, etc., is the fixed point, the latter force is paramount, and only accident or a series of accidents can balance it.

Letter, Quincey P. Morris to Hon. Arthur Holmwood.

25 May.

“My dear Art,—

“We’ve told yarns by the camp-fire in the prairies; and dressed one another’s wounds after trying a landing at the Marquesas; and drunk healths on the shore of Titicaca. There are more yarns to be told, and other wounds to be healed, and another health to be drunk. Won’t you let this be at my camp-fire to-morrow night? I have no hesitation in asking you, as I know a certain lady is engaged to a certain dinner-party, and that you are free. There will only be one other, our old pal at the Korea, Jack Seward. He’s coming, too, and we both want to mingle our weeps over the wine-cup, and to drink a health with all our hearts to the happiest man in all the wide world, who has won the noblest heart that God has made and the best worth winning. We promise you a hearty welcome, and a loving greeting, and a health as true as your own right hand. We shall both swear to leave you at home if you drink too deep to a certain pair of eyes. Come!

“Yours, as ever and always,
Quincey P. Morris.



Moon Phase: Waning Crescent

Here, we see that our trio are actually old friends. 

Some copies of Dracula were shipped with a misprint on the date of Dr. Seward's journal. You can still find some that say "25 April" and some that say "25 May." May 25th is the obvious correct date. My copies are about half and half.

Seward talks about Renfield, but most of what he says is actually nonsense even by Victorian standards of psychotherapy. However, I suppose the point here is that Seward can see that Renfield is focusing on something outside of himself. How is it that Dracula already has a hold on him? The movies have taken it to mean that Renfield was the first to visit Dracula, but we have no evidence of that here. It is more likely that in Renfield Dracula found a willing disciple. 

On to Arthur, Quincey and John. So all three know each other, and all three have had some adventures together all over the world, it seems. Again, Dracula scholars have seized on this and suggested that the three had had encounters with the supernatural before. This is intriguing but very unlikely. They are too caught off guard for them to have seen anything akin to this. No. Our three would be vampire hunters represent what is best about the Victorian time; the young and rising Lord (Holmwood), the rich adventurous American (Morris), and our brilliant Doctor (Seward). They are also part of the new world, and they have not yet been tarnished by anything from the old world. 

Friday, May 24, 2024

Dracula, The Hunters' Journals: 24 May, Letter Lucy Westenra to Mina Murray.

 We learn more about Lucy's suitors and how she got three proposals in one day!  We meet our three fearless vampire hunters as well. Though they are not vampire hunters just yet.

Dracula - The Hunters' Journals

“My dearest Mina,—

“Thanks, and thanks, and thanks again for your sweet letter. It was so nice to be able to tell you and to have your sympathy.

“My dear, it never rains but it pours. How true the old proverbs are. Here am I, who shall be twenty in September, and yet I never had a proposal till to-day, not a real proposal, and to-day I have had three. Just fancy! THREE proposals in one day! Isn’t it awful! I feel sorry, really and truly sorry, for two of the poor fellows. Oh, Mina, I am so happy that I don’t know what to do with myself. And three proposals! But, for goodness’ sake, don’t tell any of the girls, or they would be getting all sorts of extravagant ideas and imagining themselves injured and slighted if in their very first day at home they did not get six at least. Some girls are so vain! You and I, Mina dear, who are engaged and are going to settle down soon soberly into old married women, can despise vanity. Well, I must tell you about the three, but you must keep it a secret, dear, from every one, except, of course, Jonathan. You will tell him, because I would, if I were in your place, certainly tell Arthur. A woman ought to tell her husband everything—don’t you think so, dear?—and I must be fair. Men like women, certainly their wives, to be quite as fair as they are; and women, I am afraid, are not always quite as fair as they should be. Well, my dear, number One came just before lunch. I told you of him, Dr. John Seward, the lunatic-asylum man, with the strong jaw and the good forehead. He was very cool outwardly, but was nervous all the same. He had evidently been schooling himself as to all sorts of little things, and remembered them; but he almost managed to sit down on his silk hat, which men don’t generally do when they are cool, and then when he wanted to appear at ease he kept playing with a lancet in a way that made me nearly scream. He spoke to me, Mina, very straightforwardly. He told me how dear I was to him, though he had known me so little, and what his life would be with me to help and cheer him. He was going to tell me how unhappy he would be if I did not care for him, but when he saw me cry he said that he was a brute and would not add to my present trouble. Then he broke off and asked if I could love him in time; and when I shook my head his hands trembled, and then with some hesitation he asked me if I cared already for any one else. He put it very nicely, saying that he did not want to wring my confidence from me, but only to know, because if a woman’s heart was free a man might have hope. And then, Mina, I felt a sort of duty to tell him that there was some one. I only told him that much, and then he stood up, and he looked very strong and very grave as he took both my hands in his and said he hoped I would be happy, and that if I ever wanted a friend I must count him one of my best. Oh, Mina dear, I can’t help crying: and you must excuse this letter being all blotted. Being proposed to is all very nice and all that sort of thing, but it isn’t at all a happy thing when you have to see a poor fellow, whom you know loves you honestly, going away and looking all broken-hearted, and to know that, no matter what he may say at the moment, you are passing quite out of his life. My dear, I must stop here at present, I feel so miserable, though I am so happy.


“Arthur has just gone, and I feel in better spirits than when I left off, so I can go on telling you about the day. Well, my dear, number Two came after lunch. He is such a nice fellow, an American from Texas, and he looks so young and so fresh that it seems almost impossible that he has been to so many places and has had such adventures. I sympathise with poor Desdemona when she had such a dangerous stream poured in her ear, even by a black man. I suppose that we women are such cowards that we think a man will save us from fears, and we marry him. I know now what I would do if I were a man and wanted to make a girl love me. No, I don’t, for there was Mr. Morris telling us his stories, and Arthur never told any, and yet—— My dear, I am somewhat previous. Mr. Quincey P. Morris found me alone. It seems that a man always does find a girl alone. No, he doesn’t, for Arthur tried twice to make a chance, and I helping him all I could; I am not ashamed to say it now. I must tell you beforehand that Mr. Morris doesn’t always speak slang—that is to say, he never does so to strangers or before them, for he is really well educated and has exquisite manners—but he found out that it amused me to hear him talk American slang, and whenever I was present, and there was no one to be shocked, he said such funny things. I am afraid, my dear, he has to invent it all, for it fits exactly into whatever else he has to say. But this is a way slang has. I do not know myself if I shall ever speak slang; I do not know if Arthur likes it, as I have never heard him use any as yet. Well, Mr. Morris sat down beside me and looked as happy and jolly as he could, but I could see all the same that he was very nervous. He took my hand in his, and said ever so sweetly:—

“‘Miss Lucy, I know I ain’t good enough to regulate the fixin’s of your little shoes, but I guess if you wait till you find a man that is you will go join them seven young women with the lamps when you quit. Won’t you just hitch up alongside of me and let us go down the long road together, driving in double harness?’

“Well, he did look so good-humoured and so jolly that it didn’t seem half so hard to refuse him as it did poor Dr. Seward; so I said, as lightly as I could, that I did not know anything of hitching, and that I wasn’t broken to harness at all yet. Then he said that he had spoken in a light manner, and he hoped that if he had made a mistake in doing so on so grave, so momentous, an occasion for him, I would forgive him. He really did look serious when he was saying it, and I couldn’t help feeling a bit serious too—I know, Mina, you will think me a horrid flirt—though I couldn’t help feeling a sort of exultation that he was number two in one day. And then, my dear, before I could say a word he began pouring out a perfect torrent of love-making, laying his very heart and soul at my feet. He looked so earnest over it that I shall never again think that a man must be playful always, and never earnest, because he is merry at times. I suppose he saw something in my face which checked him, for he suddenly stopped, and said with a sort of manly fervour that I could have loved him for if I had been free:—

“‘Lucy, you are an honest-hearted girl, I know. I should not be here speaking to you as I am now if I did not believe you clean grit, right through to the very depths of your soul. Tell me, like one good fellow to another, is there any one else that you care for? And if there is I’ll never trouble you a hair’s breadth again, but will be, if you will let me, a very faithful friend.’

“My dear Mina, why are men so noble when we women are so little worthy of them? Here was I almost making fun of this great-hearted, true gentleman. I burst into tears—I am afraid, my dear, you will think this a very sloppy letter in more ways than one—and I really felt very badly. Why can’t they let a girl marry three men, or as many as want her, and save all this trouble? But this is heresy, and I must not say it. I am glad to say that, though I was crying, I was able to look into Mr. Morris’s brave eyes, and I told him out straight:—

“‘Yes, there is some one I love, though he has not told me yet that he even loves me.’ I was right to speak to him so frankly, for quite a light came into his face, and he put out both his hands and took mine—I think I put them into his—and said in a hearty way:—

“‘That’s my brave girl. It’s better worth being late for a chance of winning you than being in time for any other girl in the world. Don’t cry, my dear. If it’s for me, I’m a hard nut to crack; and I take it standing up. If that other fellow doesn’t know his happiness, well, he’d better look for it soon, or he’ll have to deal with me. Little girl, your honesty and pluck have made me a friend, and that’s rarer than a lover; it’s more unselfish anyhow. My dear, I’m going to have a pretty lonely walk between this and Kingdom Come. Won’t you give me one kiss? It’ll be something to keep off the darkness now and then. You can, you know, if you like, for that other good fellow—he must be a good fellow, my dear, and a fine fellow, or you could not love him—hasn’t spoken yet.’ That quite won me, Mina, for it was brave and sweet of him, and noble, too, to a rival—wasn’t it?—and he so sad; so I leant over and kissed him. He stood up with my two hands in his, and as he looked down into my face—I am afraid I was blushing very much—he said:—

“‘Little girl, I hold your hand, and you’ve kissed me, and if these things don’t make us friends nothing ever will. Thank you for your sweet honesty to me, and good-bye.’ He wrung my hand, and taking up his hat, went straight out of the room without looking back, without a tear or a quiver or a pause; and I am crying like a baby. Oh, why must a man like that be made unhappy when there are lots of girls about who would worship the very ground he trod on? I know I would if I were free—only I don’t want to be free. My dear, this quite upset me, and I feel I cannot write of happiness just at once, after telling you of it; and I don’t wish to tell of the number three until it can be all happy.

“Ever your loving

“P.S.—Oh, about number Three—I needn’t tell you of number Three, need I? Besides, it was all so confused; it seemed only a moment from his coming into the room till both his arms were round me, and he was kissing me. I am very, very happy, and I don’t know what I have done to deserve it. I must only try in the future to show that I am not ungrateful to God for all His goodness to me in sending to me such a lover, such a husband, and such a friend.




Moon Phase: Waning Crescent

Here we see more contrast between Lucy Westenra ("Light of the West"?) and Mina Murry.  Mina and Lucy are the same age but Mina seems older, or at the very least more mature. This is best seen in the Francis Ford Coppola movie "Bram Stoker's Dracula."  Sadie Frost embodies everything that Lucy is in this book and she does it well, 

We are introduced to Dr. John Seward, who becomes key when bringing in Van Helsing later on. However, I have to ask why he is carrying a lancet with him. Note that all the men in this tale carry edged weapons. The phallic connotations of these is played up well in the FFC movie. 

We also meet the Quincey P. Morris, the Texan. Now why has Stoker included this character? Largely I think due to the fascination the Upper Class Victorians had with Americans, especially rich Americans, at this time. Arthur, Lucy, even Seward to a degree, were all very well off. It is possible that Quincey had more money than all of them. He furnishes supplies later on when it is time to track Dracula, though Arthur does his share as well. 

We do know that Stoker was something of an Americanophile. He was friends with Mark Twain and Walt Whitman. He authored a pamphlet, A Glimpse of America, where he praised Americans. He contrasted them with the British, noting how they were nearly identical in all respects, language, laws, religion, social norms, and yet America was doing so much more.  This has been Stoker's thesis in Dracula all along. The New World vs. The Old World. If Dracula had had a sequel by Storker, then I can see Dracula going to America.

Quincy is largely a stereotype of Americans by and for the British, but he works well enough here. 

This Old Dragon: Issue #166

Dragon Magazine #166
 Dipping into the box of mildewy Dragons under my desk, I find this gem in February 1991. Ok, again, I did not pull this one out completely at random. And compared to some of the others this one is in rather great shape. Let's see. February of 1991. I was an undergrad, living in an apartment with three other guys. Graduation was still a year or so off. My computer at the time was my aging Color Computer 3 that, while I loved it, was showing me its limitations in an increasingly IBM-PC-compatible world.  The number song on the radio was "The First Time" by Surface. No I don't remember them at all. The number one movie was "Sleeping with the Enemy" staring Julia Roberts. And on tables and shelves everywhere was Issue #166 of This Old Dragon.

Again, this is a sci-fi-themed edition, so let's see what we have here.

Our cover this month is from E. M. Gooch. I admit I don't know them and my quick internet search pulled up nothing.

Letters covers the topics of the month from all over the world. An Israeli reader provides some names for creatures in Hebrew. A Canadian reader has Griffon questions. 

The Editorial by Dale A. Donovan covers a lot of good non-TSR games for various genres. 

In Time for Tomorrow is our Sci-Fi themed section. Up first is Michael LaBossiere with Wired and Ready a guide to running a cyberpunk-style RPG. The 90s were a great time for cyberpunk games. I had tried out several in the first half of the decade, with Mike Pondsmith's Cyberpunk and FASA's ShadowRun as my two favorites. Ithink Shadowrun edged it out for me since I was always a fan of magic. His 5 page article covers a lot of ground and was required reading back then. Today, well many of the things that seemed like fantasy then are all too real now. Large, above the law, corporations. Dark futures. cyber slang. All feels like history and current events instead of some future time.

Mike Speca has some BATTLETECH advice in Tricks of the Trade. Now I never played BATTLETECH though I do see the appeal. 

Up next is an article that to me at least feels like "what happens if we adapt Paranoia's biggest gag to GURPS Autoduel?" Edward Goldstein gives us A Clone of Your Own for GURPS Autoduel. It reads like one of the "Ecology of" articles; set in the world of the game and reporting what they know with game details interspersed.

Breaking up the sci-fi is TSR PREVIEWS for February and March 1991. Among the listings are The Complete Psionics Handbook, which I just dug up for my new Forgotten Realms campaign. Some Buck Rogers XXVc accessories. Ship of Horror for Ravenloft, which I think I picked up right away, and some more. 

Three pages of the Convention Calendar is next. Lots of international ones here too. The Egyptian Campaign '91 is listed for March 1-3. Despite being there, I am pretty sure I missed it. Lots of little cons back then, I don't find as many of these now.

The Lessers (Hartley, Patricia, and Kirk) are back with The Role of Computers. This time they cover Wing Commander, which they give 6 stars out of 5! That's quite a review. The requirements are also pretty high for 1991, s Roland sound board and VGA graphics. No indication on RAM but I am betting at least 8 or 16 megs, which was top notch back then.

The Game Wizards from Timothy B. Brown is up with a preview of the new Dungeons & Dragons set subtitled "An Easy-To-Learn Introduction to Role-Playing." Like all Game Wizards entries it is half sales pitch, half preview. 

Friend of the Other Side, Bruce Heard is up with another installment of The Voyage of the Princess Ark.

Superstar Tom Moldvay is next with a new game, Dino Wars! A very clever game of army men vs toy dinosaurs. Honestly, it looks fun. There is quite a lot of detail, and it looks like something everyone could play with, given how ubiquitous toy soldiers and dinosaurs are.

Dino Wars by Tom Moldvay

Our fiction section is Rest Stop by J.W. Donnelly.

Scott Waterhouse is up with Arcane Lore: More Pages from the Arch Mages. Not the subtle title change. This covers new spellbooks and spells for AD&D 2nd Edition.

Sage Advice answers our burning questions and errata. 

Jim Bambra reviews Torg and Rifts in Role-Playing Reviews. Is there any game that is more early 90s than Rifts? Almost every designer I know has developed something for it. 

Marlys Heezel "reviews" some new novels for the Novel Ideas column, which I have never seen before. Both books are from TSR Books, so it really feels more like an ad.  In fact a full page ad for them follow.

Forum covers some deeper topics from Dragons #155 and #156.

Robert Rinas gets in on the Top Gun craze and gives us The Navy Wants You! for the Top Secret/S.I. RPG. It covers naval officer training as a character creation option.

Dragonmirth has our comics including Yamara. One day I will track these all down and read them in order.  The Twilight Empire is next. The art is good and I am sure the story is too. HAve to read it from the start to be sure. 

Through the Looking Glass by Robert Bigelow has the latest on new miniatures. 

So not a great issue by any stretch, but there are some gems. This feels like a transition issue before Dragon becomes a TSR game only show.  I was hoping for more sci-fi material to be honest.

Thursday, May 23, 2024

New Release: Myths & Monsters Vol. 2 - The Avenging Angels

 My next Myths & Monsters series is out.  Vol. 2 - The Avenging Angels covers the Dirae, the Erinyes and the Eumenides for your Advanced era games.

Myths & Monsters Vol. 2 - The Avenging Angels


Myths & Monsters Vol 2 - Avenging Angels

“Who, if I cried out, would hear me among the angels' hierarchies? and even if one of them pressed me against his heart: I would be consumed in that overwhelming existence.

For beauty is nothing but the beginning of terror, which we still are just able to endure, and we are so awed because it serenely disdains to annihilate us.

Every angel is terrifying.”

- Rainer Maria Rilke

This is the next of a series of myths and legends that began as a thought experiment about gods, monsters, and syncretism of beliefs. 

These aim to provide your Advanced-era game with new gods and goddesses, as well as new monsters, demons, and other adversaries. 

Myths & Monsters Vol. 2 - The Avenging Angels covers the various myths of the Dirae, the Eumenides, the Erinyes, and the goddesses Rhamnusia, Nemesis, and Invidia. Most importantly, how I take those myths and make them work with the devils now known as the Erinyes.

I also have a few holy orders for the various goddesses and devils and plenty of new spells. 

This volume also features the art of Dean Spencer. I wanted one to have full-color art. 

Wednesday, May 22, 2024

Review: Star Wars Roleplaying Game (d20)

Star Wars Revised d20 RPG
 I am bouncing around a bit here on my cruise through the science fiction games from TSR/WotC to find one that I actually rather like, even though I know many do not. I am discussing the d20 Star Wars RPG from Wizards of the Coast.

I will freely admit that I have not played a lot of the West End Game's d6 Star Wars, though I do know it is widely held in high regard. I also have never played the Fantasy Flight Games edition of Star Wars (though my son has). So, my review might be a touch myopic, and I am OK with this. 

Star Wars and D&D

Before I begin this review I have to talk a bit about my background and why I think d20 and Star Wars was a good fit.

I have talked about Star Wars a few times here, but I am obviously a much bigger Star Trek fan. I had (and still have) a good sized collection of Star Wars toys from the Kenner era in the 1980s and I religiously have seen all the movies. I enjoy the Disney+ shows and find many of the fans to be exhausting. Ok, to be fair many Trek fans are the same way. But I am a causal fan. I had read some of the Extended (or is it Expanded) Universe books and I liked many of them. I thought Grand Admiral Thrawn was a great character and getting Lars Mikkelsen to play him in live-action has to be the most brilliant, or most obvious, casting choice ever.  When the EU went away...well I honestly felt not that much. Sure lots of great stories were gone, but Star Wars had a relationship with their canon that Star Trek novels could only dream of. 

But for me, my Star Wars obsession was in the 1980s. When I had action figures and playing out new scenarios in my head. When I took a Colonial Viper model, some extra action figure guns, and an AMC (or Revel, can't remember now) 1978 Corvette and built one of my first Kitbashes. I could not afford a real Slave 1 back then (so now of course I have three) but I did build "Slave II" and it was quite literally "Fett's Vette." And I was obsessed with D&D.

I have said it before, and I will say it here again, Star Wars, aka A New Hope, is a D&D 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! 

I can't even begin to count the number of times we tried to do "D&D Star Wars" and our attempts were lame compared to others. Do an internet search on "D&D Jedi" prior to 1999 and see all the stuff that was out there, though admittedly not as much now as it was at the time. 

Even later on I often likened the Star Wars EU to another line of novels and quasi-canon material; that of the Forgotten Realms. 

So for me D&D and by extension d20 and Star Wars seemed like an obvious fit.

Star Wars RPG - Revised Core Rulebook

2002, Wizards of the Coast. 384 pages. Full-color covers and interior art. d20 System.

This is the revised version of the Star Wars d20 RPG, first published in 2000. 

This game is very closely related to the D&D 3.0 edition that had been released in 2000. I don't own a copy of the Star Wars RPG from 2000, so I can't comment on what was changed, but there is a "feel" to me that this might be an early draft of D&D 3.5. Much in the same way that Star Wars Saga Edition was an early draft of D&D 4.0.

The game is built on the d20 mechanics, so there are alien species, classes, skills, and feats. The book is divided into a players section and a game master section, so I guess the better comparison here is d20 Modern. Especially once we get in to it in detail.

Characters have a species and class, and the same six abilities as D&D. There are same 3.x era saves of Fortitude, Reflex, and Will. There are also Vitality and Wound Points.  If you can play D&D d20 era or d20 Modern then you know how to play this game. 

Chapters 2 and 3 cover Species and Classes. There are 17 species to choose from, including standard humans and Ewoks (!). Classes cover the expected varieties, including Fringer, Scout, Scoundrel, Force Adepts, and Jedis. There are Prestige classes covered later. 

Chapters 4 and 5: Skills and Feats look and act like their D&D/d20 counterparts. Skills are mostly the same, but the feats take on some new aspects. While there are many that are the same, there are new ones like Force Feats (which does a lot to help explain Jedi Powers).

Chapter 6 covers the final pieces of building heroic characters, including some more "Star Wars" flavor.

Chapter 7 is our Equipment guide and it is a rather fun one. Lots of gear in the Star Wars universe. 

Chapter 8 covers combat, a needed chapter since "War" is practically the last name here. 

Chapter 9 though takes us into new territory with "The Force." This is more complicated than magic, but there are some great ideas here to take back to a D&D game for Game Masters that want to use the corrupting power of magic.

Chapters 10 and 11 deal with Vehicles and Starships, respectively.  Honestly, I could spend all my time on the Starships chapter.

Chapter 12 is Gamemastering. It covers a lot of ground from how to teach the game to new players, to setting challenges, to Prestige classes (Bounty Hunters, Jedi Masters, and more). The GM Characters from d20 Modern also get ported over here as the Diplomat, Expert, and Thug.

Chapter 13 deals with the Eras of Play. Or at least how they looked in 2002 before the Clone Wars series and Revenge of the Sith hit our screens. There are hints of the Expanded Universe here, but not a lot. Now I know that Wizards, with their own Star Wars books, helped expand the Expanded Universe. We even get stats for the poster girl of the Expanded Universe, Mara Jade Skywalker. I am actually really happy about that. I have a soft spot in my heart for Temporal Orphans

Chapter 14 covers Allies and Opponents, which, of course, can vary depending on what era you are playing in. This also contains Wizards of the Coast biggest contribution to the Expanded Universe, the Yuuzhan Vong, which I always found kind of cool and wanted to port them back to D&D in some way.

Chapter 15 covers the one area where Star Wars is superior to Star Trek. Droids. 

The game really relies a lot on the players' and game masters' own knowledge of Star Wars. Yes, you can play it without that, but it certainly helps. 

Is this the best Star Wars game? I can't say. It is the best one for me. It has enough to allow me to build a game universe and play. I can add in d20 Future material as I like, including some d20 Gamma World or even d20 Traveller

The Wizards of the Coast d20 Star Wars lines are out of print. The new owners of the Star Wars RPG, Fantasy Flight Games (bought by Asmodee in 2014) have their own system. My oldest likes it and has run a few games with it. I'll try it out. I suppose I should also review the d6 West End Games Star Wars at some point as well.

Star Wars RPGs

Tuesday, May 21, 2024

Mail Call Tuesday: Golem

 Got a nice surprise in the mail this past week. My latest adventure in the Frightshow Classics line of "Chilling" adventures from Yeti Spaghetti & Friends.


Golem is my first adventure written to take place in NYC and honestly I really came to understand why New Yorkers love their city so much. I mean, don't get me wrong, I am not moving out of my beloved Chicago. But I do understand them a little better.

You can get your PDF copy from DriveThruRPG.  Or contact the publisher directly for Print copies. 

While you are at it, you can get both of my adventures!

The Nightmare and Golem

The Nightmare is also available at DriveThruRPG along with other great Frighshow Classics adventures.