Tuesday, March 21, 2017

When White Stars Are Right

Over at Tenkar's Tavern, the latest entry on the rumors table is that White Star* and White Star Companion*, the Swords & Wizardry-derived Space Opera RPG from James Spahn and Barrel Rider Games, are now priced on DriveThruRPG as Pay-What-You-Want. If you haven't already, I can highly recommend checking them out, as I think that White Star is my favorite entry in the admittedly well-trodden "Space Opera OSR" sub-genre. Certainly it's the one that has taken off (heh) the hardest, with a variety of other supplements available from both Barrel Rider Games* and others*, not to mention all the fan-made content in the OSR Blog community (a self-referential example). Much of this is designed with an eye towards tailoring your campaign to a specific sub-genre, or even recreating a specific franchise.
In a way, that gets at the heart of what I find so endearing about the system, or rather the implied setting. While most RPG settings, I suspect, have at their base the attempted emulation of a favorite genre or piece of entertainment, the implied setting of White Star is a glorious mash-up of influences, with only the tiniest effort made towards disguising their origins. I mean, you want "Star Knights" and their evil counterparts "Void Knights"? Check. "Qinlons" and "Assimilants", or alternatively Assimilants and "Cannicks"? Check. Something more classic, like "Thronks" or "Wellsians"? Check. All of these together? Go for it! And toss in anything else you can think of - heck, there are even two different versions of Ewoks, "Fluffs" for random encounters and "Yabnabs" for a PC option (capped at Level 4).

If you have even the slightest interest in the genre, there's really no reason not to check these out. It's even got me pondering some new ideas for a mashup setting based on not filing off those serial numbers . . .

*Remember, folks, that any DTRPG links on this blog are affiliate links that pay me a small fee when you use them. Relax, it doesn't cost you a thing.

Friday, January 20, 2017

On the Ghostly Horizon

File this one under "Things to keep an eye out for" - at the end of last year, The Renaissance Troll previewed an upcoming project from Osprey Publishing* called Frostgrave: The Ghost Archipelago. Now, I'm not much of a wargamer, but the setting description (via Amazon) sounds like it's right up my alley:

A vast island chain, covered in the ruins of ancient and otherworldly civilizations, the Archipelago appears every few centuries, far out in the southern ocean. At such times, pirates, adventurers, wizards, and legendary heroes all descend upon the islands in the hopes of finding lost treasures and powerful artefacts. A few, drawn by the blood of their ancestors, search for the fabled Crystal Pool, whose waters grant abilities far beyond those of normal men. It is only the bravest, however, who venture into the islands, for they are filled with numerous deadly threats. Cannibal tribes, sorcerous serpent-men, and poisonous water-beasts all inhabit the island ruins, guarding their treasure hordes and setting traps for the unwary.

If nothing else, it sounds like it could be a great addition to the vaguely-imagined World of Pirating setting I'd like to run someday. I'm not so sure about this whole pool-granted superpowers thing, but I suppose it parallels the setup from the original Frostgrave game** (which this announcement has got me vastly more interested in) of the party being basically an adventuring wizard and his hired help. Time will tell if the Ghost Archipelago has the staying power of the Frozen City, but given the genres involved I think it's quite promising.

* Which, in the past few years, seems to have gone from "Research materials for historical wargamers" to "Research materials for historical, fantasy, and High Weirdness** wargamers" to "You know what? We're just going to cut out the middleman here and publish the wargames themselves".

**All Drive-Thru links go through their affiliate program, which means that if you use them I get paid, and it costs you nothing extra! Such a deal.

Friday, December 16, 2016

The Dungeons Of Catan

Well, not quite, but that's what I was first reminded of by these neat new dungeon tiles being developed under the name of HEXOMOPHO.

". . . Does this Wandering Monster Table have anything other than Robbers?"

 With 54 different tiles, including a number of different entry points (my favorite is the dock), it looks like a bit of planning will allow a GM to lay out a practically infinite number of maps. Or, just have a stack handy and deal them out as the players progress, although this method will also require the use of some good random stocking tables.

The best part? The full set of designs is free to download, scaled to either 15mm or 28mm miniatures. Printer paper, glue, and cardboard is pretty much all you need to get started, and in a real pinch you could probably skip the glue and cardboard.

A big thanks to Dungeon Fantastic for bringing this to my attention.

Sunday, October 2, 2016

Blog Zeitgiest Roundup: Pulp Middle-Earth

Perhaps it was the release of the Players Guide for Cubicle 7's official 5E Dungeons & Dragons Middle-Earth adaption* at the end of August, but it seems to me that in the last month or so there's been a lot of good discussion in the vein of playing Tolkien's masterpiece with a decided Howardian bent.

While some had explored similar ideas earlier this year, it was really Trey at From the Sorcerer's Skull that really kicked things off, with his post "Middle Earth with More Pulp":

"Know, O prince, that between the years when the oceans drank Númenor and the gleaming cities, and the years of the Fourth Age, there was an Age undreamed of, when realms of Elf, Man, and Dwarf lay spread across the world like blue mantles beneath the stars. . . Hither came Aragorn of the Dúnedain, black-haired, sullen-eyed, sword in hand, a ranger, a wander, a chieftain, with gigantic melancholies and gigantic mirth, to tread the thrones of Arda under his feet." 
The Red Book of Westmarch
Pitch-perfect bit of writing, that. And I'm not the only one who thought so, as Joshua Dyal at Dark*Heritage was inspired enough to not only dig up some of the most perfect artwork for a project like this, but to brainstorm some of Middle-Earth's pulpiest bits of history.

Frank Frazetta's Gollum
As the month went on, both Josh and Trey revisited the idea specifically to address what to do about the non-humans - Elves, Dwarves, and Orcs (Hobbits being lumped in with the Big People) - and come up with some pretty neat ideas.

Finally, at Tales of the Grotesque and Dungeonesque CJK points out something very familiar in what's supposed to be a Lovecraftian symbol:

Oh, Ftghan.

Which brings up, at least to my mind, a whole other point - Howardian Tolkien is one thing, but Lovecraftian Tolkien? Quite another. From a slightly different perspective Gollum seems very ghoulish, for example, and just what is up with that thing Watching the Doors of Durin, anyway?

*Disclaimer: This, as well as most if not all other links to DriveThruRPG on this blog, go through an affiliate link that pays me if you click it and then buy something.

Thursday, September 22, 2016

High Weirdness Campaign Generator

Having been in a bit of a pulpy mood lately, I was pretty pleased to come across this generator over at HeroPress:

True, it does have a few elements that lend themselves more to The X-Files than Indiana Jones, but there's a lot of overlap in those elements, especially if you up the gonzo quotient in your pulp. And while you can use the name-initial method to run the generator - "Fairies Ran the New World Order" sounds kind of like the start of an urban fantasy campaign - it's also perfectly situated for dice.

What's that? You don't have a d26 handy? Actually, neither do I. Happily, d20s and d6s are both standard, and if we use both that just gives us more elements to work with. For example, if I roll 18 + 3 on the top half that gives me Nazis, Dragons, and Gnomes (. . . maybe this is also a fantasy generator), and 14 + 4 on the bottom "Ruled the Hollow Earth", "Built Atlantis", and "Created the Nazca Lines". These all have possibilities by themselves, but you can't tell me that Hollow Earth Nazis fighting ancient Atlantean dragons for control of places of gnome-made power doesn't sound amazingly off-the-wall.

Thanks to Tim Knight of HeroPress and the original maker of this generator!

Saturday, September 17, 2016


A setting premise for the pulp-tinged fantasy or fantasy-tinged pulp RPG of your choice.

While knocking about in the East in the 1920s, an English explorer Sir George Lancasterwood-Smith came into possession of a curious stone ring of impressive size immense age. Naturally he had it shipped back to his estates in Berktonshire, where it stood for several years until one foggy, moonlit night when something came out of the ring and ate Sir George's favorite hound.

 In response, rather than do something sensible (like sticking the ring under an American mountain range for sixty years), Sir George moved the ring indoors and engaged all manner of scientists, cranks, boffins, alchemists, and mystics to figure out its secrets. Eventually, they determined that by illuminating sections of the ring in sequence, the inside would shimmer and thin and, if passed through, would deposit explorers - somewhere else.

Somewhere else, in this case, being an immense underground labyrinth, decorated in a vaguely familiar but unidentifiable style that seems to heavily feature skulls. This was, however, less important than the unique and valuable artifacts that kept turning up, inspiring Sir George to lead several expeditions further and further into the maze.

That, of course, is when the monsters showed up.

The bulk of them seemed to be long-dead bodies mindlessly shambling around despite various states of decomposition, but
there were plenty of other creatures seemingly torn from ghost stories and fairy tales, and others that defied sane descriptions. Despite this, Sir George is still recruiting interested parties to investigate the mysterious underworld, perhaps discovering whether the labyrinth has any exit, or whether three are any other living people inside. Some of those studying the ring - or the Gate, as it's now called - also wonder if, by changing the pattern of the light shone on the ring, the Gate could be made to open somewhere else entirely . . .

Thursday, April 28, 2016

90s-Era Sci-Fi Horror Monster Stats From Ken Hite

The other day I was browsing Facebook and the most interesting thing popped up via the Timeline of the Alien and Predator Universe page, and cited as being from the July 1998 issue of InQuest Gamer magazine, specifically the article titled "Terminators: Five Movie Monsters to Torment Your PCs" by none other than Kenneth Hite. What three of these terminators may have been was not specified (though the cover of the magazine suggests, well, Terminators), but the two that were are, of course, a Xenomorph and a Yautja: