Monday, April 20, 2015

Fate Strange Stars Page

Here's another page from the work-in-progress Strange Stars Fate gamebook. The text is by John Till, the picture by David Lewis Johnson, and the layout by Lester B. Portly.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

More Savage Worlds Strange Stars

Mike's latest efforts over at Wrathofzombie:

from the Vokun Empire, the Kuath, ibglibdishpan, voidgliders, and the Yantrans; and the nomadic Star Folk.

Check them out.

Friday, April 17, 2015

Azurth Monster Review

Yesterday's tigerpillar was only the beginning. Here's some other entries from the bestiary you might have missed:

Deodand, Hirsute and Gleimous varieties.
Dragonborn are a different thing in the deserts of Sang.
Manhound. "He who makes a beast of himself gets rid of the pain of being a man."
Moon Goon arrives in a lead balloon.
Super-Wizard ancient, ultra-powerful alien wizards.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Azurthite Bestiary: Tigerpillar

by B.R. Guthrie
Tigerpillars are horrible because they are always hungry. Owing to their magical nature (their creation blamed on one ancient and obviously depraved sorcerer or another), their organs are all mixed up--in one place tiger-like and another more like an inchworm--and they can never get fully satiated. They make their lairs in remote places in the wilderness or underground not because they prefer these places, but there they can devour whatever unfortunates might happen by with less interference.

Some say the tigerpillar metamorphizes into an adult form--a tiger moth or slaughterfly, perhaps--at some point, but others say this is nonsense.

large monstrosity, unaligned
AC 13 (natural armor)
Hit Points: 51 (6d10+18)
Speed: 30 ft.
STR 17(+3) DEX 13(+1) CON 16(+3) INT 3(+4) WIS 12(+1) CHA 8(-1)
Skills: Perception +3, Stealth +3
Senses darkvision 60 ft., passive Perception 13.

Keen Smell. The tigerpillar an advantage on Wisdom (Perception) checks relying on smell.

Pounce. If the tigerpillar moves at least 20 ft. straight toward a creature then hits it with a claw on the same turn, that target must succeed on a DC 13 Strength saving throw or be knocked prone. If the target is prone, the tigerpillar can make one bite attack it as a bonus action.

Multiattack. The tigerpillar makes two attacks: one with its claws and one with its bite.
Bite. +5 to hit, reach 5 ft., one target. Hit: 8 (1d10+3) piercing damage.
Claws. +5 to hit, reach 5 ft., one target. Hit 7 (1d8+3) slashing damage.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Wednesday Comics: Timelines, Sliding and Otherwise

These panels are no longer in continuity. Best forget reading them!
The advance of years has led Marvel and DC to pull make changes to keep their characters young. In 1968, Marvel took the first steps toward what would come to be known as a "sliding time scale" where the amount of time from the beginning of the heroic age stays the same, even as more and more adventures get forced in, and the beginning of that age never gets any farther away from the present. This has been coupled with an increasing avoidance of specific references to current time or events--"topical references--though there are exceptions (like right after 9/11). DC does something similar now, too, but that wasn't always their approach. Earth-Two was invented as the home of their Golden Age heroes, so it was natural for it to also become the home of Golden Age versions of their never-launched characters like Batman and Superman. For a while, this allowed DC's characters to stay "topical" and tied to the real world, though they seldom took advantage of it.

Before "Marvel Time" completely took hold--throughout much of the 70s--Marvel characters stayed somewhat topical. This is best exemplified by Claremont's run on the X-Men. Magneto's past is tied to Auschwitz and the Holocaust. We are told Ororo "Storm" Munroe was born in 1951 and that was orphaned by the Suez Crisis. Jean Grey's tombstone gives the extent of her life as "1956-1980."

Did Professor X let a 13 year-old fight Sentinels?
This can't be the Jean Grey that first appeared (likely as a high school sophomore) in 1963, though. (In fact, it doesn't seem likely that it's the same Jean Grey in that talked about meeting the Sentinels in '1969' in X-Men #98--don't know what Claremont was doing there.) Like the Golden Age Superman slowing melding into the a Silver Age one, the Silver Age Jean Grey slowly became the Bronze Age one while nobody was really paying attention.

A lot of people might not agree, but I kind of wish the DC approach had been stuck with by both companies. Instead of squishing and distorting things to fit a sliding time with very little to link it to real history, why not just switch the particular version of the characters you're chronicling every decade or so? The Silver Age Reed and Ben that fought in World War II would eventually become the Bronze Age Ben and Reed that fought in Korea or Vietnam, and the Modern Age ones that weren't in any war, You can keep the things they wanted and reboot others for each era.

Monday, April 13, 2015

Basic Strange Stars Tech

Art by Don Maitz
Despite its somewhat retro trappings, the actual technology of the Strange Stars owes more to modern science fiction. Across worlds and habitats it varies, of course: some places are at a Stone Age level while others border on post-scarcity. Here's a rundown of the common technologies available to the average citizen of the "standard" world or habitat:

Metascape: Most people experience the world through an augmented reality overlay. It contains useful information for travels, social media messages, and lots and lots of spam. Nobody walks through a public square without their filters on, lest they be bombarded by all sorts of virtual messages. Clothing is enhanced--or even sometimes completely generated--in the metascape. Some jurisdictions make it a crime to view the world infiltered by metascapes as this is seen as an unwarranted invasion of others' privacy.

Noosphere: The cyberspace of the far future, essentially, encompassing traditional internet activities, the metascape, and the living environment of infosophonts.

Implanted Cyberware: brain-computer interface is as common as smartphones are today and used for similar purposes. The typical pre-programmed software allows metascape interface, noospheric connectivity, communication (where messages can either be read or heard as read by an avatar or the sender or anyone else), chronometry, basic calculation, and interface with most modern devices. Most individuals don't navigate their own apps, but use a personal daemon--a nonsophont ai--as an advanced "Siri" and an answering service. Some cultures (like the Vokun) find implanted devices distasteful as do some individuals. They use wearable devices for the most part.

Fabber (or mini-fabber): A nanofabrication unit--essentially an advanced 3D printer--assembling at a molecular level, finished products from raw materials. These aren't exactly portable, but they are near ubiqitous household and shipboard items and public units can be used for a fee. Anything from foodstuffs (though this would only be done on long space voyages) to starship parts can be made given enough substrate and the necessary "blueprints." Commercially available models can be "jailbreaked" to make illicit drugs or weapons, but its generally easier just to buy or steal such common items.

Sunday, April 12, 2015

12 Monkeys and the Temporal Investigation Game

I after the first episode, I though SyFy's 12 Monkeys series was going to be an episodic "hunt down the lead of the week" sort of thing. I was not totally wrong, but I didn't anticipate the interesting background mythology the writers would weave into the show or the clever twists they had in store. With season one over, I think its a great example of how an investigation/mystery game could be done with points in time taking the place of physical locations.

This sort of setup requires time travel to be limited in its utility. No Dr. Who-esque traveling to anywhere in space and time. Limited the number of times a person can time travel helps. Also, having the timeframe of the mystery roughly delineated so that it covers a period of a few years or decades at most.

Like when developing a hexcrawl or a pointcrawl the events (and clues) available at every time point should be planned out before hand, so that PC's can investigate them in any order they want to, Obviously, time travel institutes the possibility that PCs might do something to change the past (or the present). The easiest way to handle this is to have changes sprout alternate timelines, so the original clues remain untampered with. The problem with that is, it removes an easy reason PCs would have to be doing this travel to begin with--to change the future.

Another way to do it would be to add new points and new clues to accomodate PC changes. The antagonists have to react to the PCs actions, perhaps though, they're helped by a tendency of the time-stream to resist change.

Finally, if you're going to go to the trouble of time traveling to solve a mystery, the stakes need to be high and the clues evocative and strange. Besides shows like 12 Monkeys, Lost, Helix, and to an extent True Detective, are good at doing this sort of thing. Getting players to wonder about the location and nature of the Night Room or who the Magic Man or Jacob is will help keep PCs interested even with setbacks or leads that don't pan out.