Friday, October 30, 2020

Armageddon Alternatves

Anne from DIY & Dragons reminded me earlier this week of some of the cool stuff from the Buck Rogers comic strip: namely things like the Org gangs and the anti-gravity belts they aware they allow them to make leaps like characters in wuxia films (or the Matrix movies). For the most part, these things are present in the novella that inspired the comic strip: Armageddon 2419 AD by Philip Francis Nowlan. It tells the story of Buck Anthony Rogers who is put in suspended animation by some weird mine gas and awakens in a 25th Century where a Mongol Empire ("the Han") emerged from the Gobi to conquer Europe and North America. Driven from the ruined cities, the Americans formed "gangs" (Orgs in the later comic) to fight a protracted insurgency. 

Yellow Peril racism is an unfortunate relic of the past, but I think it's pretty easy to get rid of that and keep the fun stuff. We can sub out the conquerors. Here are a few options.

Martians: Wells' War of Worlds takes place in the early 20th Century (probably 1907) so it's a bit early to fit the Armageddon 2419 AD timeline, but there have been other invasions like Killraven. Maybe John Christopher's Masters aren't Martians, but they have tripods just like them.

Apes: Maybe Moreau-tech touches off a Planet of the Apes scenario early? Or perhaps the 1918 Spanish Flu epidemic is followed by a plague that kills off dogs and cats, leading to apes between adopted as pets, then bred as servants, etc. That's always assuming the apes don't come from Mars.

Robots/Artificial Beings/Cyborgs: Capek's R.U.R. takes place around the year 2000, but discovers the android creating process occurs earlier, so it could work. Of course, cyborgs from a Tenth Planet are always an option, too.

Monday, October 26, 2020

Star Trek Endeavour: The Clarity of Crystal (Part 2)

Episode 2 (part 2):
Player Characters: 
The Crew of the USS Endeavour, NCC-1895, Constitution Class Starship (refit):
Andrea as Lt. Ona Greer, Chief Engineer Officer and Lt. Taryn Loy, Geologist
Bob as Capt. Robert Locke
Gina as Cmdr. Isabella Hale, Helm Chief
Eric As Lt.Cmdr. Tavek, Science Officer
Tug as Dr. Azala Vex, Trill Chief Medical Officer

Synposis: The mystery of the Erebus III research station and its alien crystals becomes clear after Tavek attempts a dangerous mind meld with a mentally unbalanced Vulcan.

Commentary: This is the continuation of the STA adaptation of an adventure I wrote for a Star Trek Starships & Spacemen game back in 2013. 

It ended with a firefight at in the Crystal Colonnade, one the PCs were at a disadvantage at due to a lack of weapons and the absence of their security chief.

We (both the players and myself) probably still are taking advantage of the STA combat options. There is probably a bit too much "stand and deliver" D&D style play, which leads to essentially a battle of attrition.

Friday, October 23, 2020

Weird Revisited: Tome of Draculas!

An orphaned Secret Santicore request in 2013 was for “better draculas.” This cryptic request I interpret in as referring to D&D’s propensity of turning unique creatures from mythology or fiction into a class of creatures. This blogpost was the result.

A dracula then is pretty much like the standard D&D vampire--except that they have a whole “urbane foreign noble fallen on hard times” thing going for them.  For a standard dracula, simply use your vampire stats of choice: give him (it’s going to be a him, most of the time) a foreign accent, a stylish cape, and a dilapidated castle.

With that in mind, here are some dracula variants:

Aquatic draculas haunt sunken funeral ships or castles submerged by some natural or manmade upheaval. Draculas are restrained by running water, but relatively still lakes, inlets or lagoons provide a place where they may be active at least some of the time. Aquatic draculas are unable to summon rats, bats, or wolves, but crabs, sentient seaweed, piranhas, and unsavory otters are an option.

Merely vampiric animals (besides bats) are impossible, but the power of a dracula’s curse is such that even beasts must succumb. Dracula dogs are the most common variety, but even cows have been known. Dracula animals have HD 7 and all the usual vampiric powers and weaknesses, plus whatever innate abilities they possessed in life. Magical animals may not be dracula-ized. (An alternate version of the hellcow appears here.)

Some draculas ache for a love lost and often mistake some woman or another for this long dead inamorata. The charm ability of the lovelorn dracula often convinces the woman in question that she is indeed a reincarnation. Lovelorn draculas are mechanically identical to the standard version, but they are often hunkier and have flowing locks and a penchant for going shirtless. They seldom bother with summoning vermin, though they probably can.

These draculas are hideous and vaguely rodent-like in appearance. They lack the suave demeanor other draculas affect: they are either testy and animalistic, or creep- pathetic and lonely. They have a special affinity for vermin and can summon twice the usual number of rats. They also tend to bring plagues where they go and can cause disease. When exposed to sunlight they fade away rather than turn to dust.

This dracula violates the "mostly male" rule. These draculas are mostly female and their foreignness comes from being from another world or plane where blood flows like water. They have none of the shapeshifting or animal summoning powers of usual draculas, but make up for it with HD 9.

After a dracula dies, they turn to a reddish powder. This dust can be collected and made into a beverage when mixed with wine and human blood. When this potion is consumed, the imbiber must save vs. polymorph or painfully transform into a duplicate of the dracula whose dust was used.

Thursday, October 22, 2020

Dark of Space

With Mothership, an official Alien rpg, and probably some others I'm forgetting, the 70s "grubby future" sci-fi horror genre is quite well represented in gaming.

But sci-fi horror wasn't invented in the 70s. Alien borrowed a lot from the films like It! The Terror from Beyond Space and Planet of the Vampires, where gleaming spaceship hulls, shiny floors, and smart uniforms were the rule, but horrors still lurked in the darkness. When you think about it, Forbidden Planet is kind of horrorific if we ignore Anne Francis--and Robby the Robot.

The antecedents of this sort of "rocket horror" are to be found in prose science fiction. A.E. van Vogt short stories "Black Destroyer" and "Discord in Scarlet" were similar enough to Alien that 20th Century Fox settled a lawsuit. Reaching even further back, CL Moore's Northwest Smith short-stories from the '30s had a strong horror element.

It's time to get blood splatter on all that chrome! No one can hear square-jawed spacemen scream in hard vacuum, either.

Wednesday, October 21, 2020

Revisiting the Wild Wild West Continues

Since last I mentioned it here, there have been two more posts in our Wild Wild West series rewatch over at the Flashback Universe Blog.

See James West battle a house cat!

Monday, October 19, 2020

Star Trek Ranger: Patterns of Vengeance (finale)

Player Characters:
The Crew of the USS Ranger, Federation scout ship:
Aaron as Lt.(jg.) Cayson Randolph
Andrea as Capt. Ada Greer
Dennis, as Lt. Osvaldo Marquez, Medical Officer
Paul as Cmdr. D.K. Mohan, Chief Helmsman

Supporting Cast:
Ensign Elana Duffy, Security Officer
Lt. Theras ch'Reith, Security Chief
Chief Petty Officer Grex, Transporter Chief

Synposis: Captain Greer, still stranded on the Brackett, must defend herself against Lt. T'Sar who is possessed by the Unity, a group mind created in a transporter research accident. The Unity want Janet Hester, the researcher they hold responsible for their creation. On the ice moon of Mycena, Marquez, Duffy, and Theras, go looking Janet Hester and discovered her remains in a crashed shuttlecraft, buried in the snow. 

When shown Hester's body, the Unity dematerialize into subspace with it, freeing the possessed crewmen.

Commentary: This adventure was based on Marvel's Star Trek (1980 series) #8 written by Martin Pasko with art by Dave Cockrum.  

There's a good rundown on the issue here.

Sunday, October 18, 2020

Weird Revisited: Bugbear Nightmare

In dark places where nightmares thicken and curdle, bugbears are born. They're gangling things with burning coal eyes that stare out of snarled fur, black and featureless as the night sky between the stars. They haunt abodes of fear and shadow: abandoned houses, ancient ruins, sunless forests; they even squeeze into the recesses of children's closets and the forgotten world glimpsed in the gaps between floorboards. Any dark corner is a door to a bugbear. They crawl out with great sacks clutched in their spider-fingered hands. Snickering, murmuring, they snatch up children and small folk in their sacks and kill those who try and stop them. They drag the children back to their damp, subterranean otherworld, and what happens there is best not discussed.

Besides (one presumes) their kidnapped victims, bugbears subsist on such inedible provender as glass shards, potash, and the heads of rabid bats. They consider certain venomous toads an utter delicacy.

Azurthite bugbears are statted like regular 5e bugbears with the following differences:

Skills Stealth +6

Special Abilities:
Plastic. Bugbears can squeeze through spaces as small as 1 inch.
Shadow Stealth. While in dim light or darkness, a bugbear can hide as a bonus action.
Sunlight Weakness. In bright sunight, bugbears have a disadvantage to attack rolls, ability checks, and saving throws.