Monday, August 31, 2020

Star Trek Ranger: The Impossible Murder

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

Synposis: The Ranger is tasked with transporting the Yannidian Ambassador to Deep Space Station K-7 to negotiate a historic treaty, but the crew finds themselves investigating a murder when the ambassador transports up murdered.

Commentary: This adventure was adapted from a 1980 story in the Marvel Star Trek comic written by Mike Barr. The player's did a great job of investigation in the early part of the adventure and rapidly came up with the likely "how" of the murder, and some ideas as to why. Things slowed down a bit in uncovering the nefarious forces behind the plot, which was probably due to me not providing enough ways to get to the solution to that final puzzle. Mysteries are always a bit a tricky, and that's not less so with Star Trek Adventures than other systems.

Deep Space Station K-7  is of course the place where the Federation first encountered the tribble.

Friday, August 28, 2020

D&D Setting + TSR Game Mashups

 Here's an idea: Take a D&D (mostly 2e) setting and combine it with a non-D&D rpg also published by TSR. Here are a few:

Spelljammer XXVc (Spelljammer + Buck Rogers XXVc)

Buck Rogers is thrown into suspended animation and awakens in a world where magic is ascendant, and Earth is an occupied territory. This winds up being a bit like Shadowrun with rockets (XXVc already had a hint of cyberpunk to it), but the difference is genetic engineering and other high-tech feats would actually be accomplished via magic.

Another Spelljammer combo: Add the Buck Rogers Adventure Game for a pulpier approach.

All Alone in the Night (Ravenloft + Metamorphosis Alpha)

When the generation ship Warden left earth, the monsters went with it, and Dracula takes his real estate schemes to the stars! Like The Starlost, you would need isolated habitats, but here they would be ruled by various horrors. Vampire Hunter D could also be an influence here. 

Another Ravenloft option: Mix in Gangbusters with the monsters as mob bosses.

Wednesday, August 26, 2020

Wednesday Comics: Protector

The post-apocalyptic science fiction comic Protector recently concluded at Image. I've been told it's going to be renamed First Knife for the trade. I plugged this series by writers Simon Roy, Daniel Bensen and artist Artyom Trakhanov, previously. I thought it was worth mentioning again because the first issue is now available to read online for free on the Image Comics website.

Monday, August 24, 2020

Star Trek Endeavour: The Savage Syndrome (Part 2)

Episode 1.5:
Player Characters: 
The Crew of the USS Endeavour, NCC-1895, Constitution Class Starship (refit):
Andrea as Lt. Ona Greer, Ops Officer
Bob as Capt. Robert Locke
Gina as Cmdr. Isabella Hale, Helm Chief
Jason as Lt. Francisco Otomo, Chief Security Officer
Eric As Lt.Cmdr. Tavek, Science Officer
Tug as Dr. Azala Vex, Trill Chief Medical Officer

Synposis: After traveling to the research station on L-373-IV, the crew of Endeavour races against time to repair their shuttle craft and recover specimens that may hold a cure for a devastating neurologic illness, before an ion storm arrives--or the de-evolved former science team kills them.

Commentary: As mentioned in the first post, this adventure is a modified version of the introductory adventure "The Rescue At Xerxes IV," with an episode name borrowed from a story synopsis submitted for the aborted Star Trek Phase II series with a similar conceit.

The science team (as in the published adventure), felt they had discovered a possible treatment, maybe a cure, for Irumodic Syndrome. With time against them, the Endeavour crew were unsuccessful in getting all the samples they needed. The last one eluded their grasp. Still, they hoped some of it was a step ahead of none. 

Tavek, the Vulcan science officer debuting this adventure, wanted to find a cure for the atavism effecting the science team, and indeed all animal life on the planet. He at least succeeded in determining the cause was some ancient, biotechnological entity, activated by the ion storm. Who or what left it behind is a mystery.

Biotechnology (by that name) is perhaps not the go to explanation of Original Series mimicking Trek, but it made more sense to be than the "weird energy" explanation.

Sunday, August 23, 2020

Weird Revisited: The Weird and The Unusual

This post first appeared in May of 2017...


The difficulty with dealing with the fantastic is too-often repeated tropes/ideas become cliches, and kind of unfantastic. The D&D (read: prevailing) view of elves, dwarves, dragons, etc. has thoroughly mundanified and Gygaxian-realismed these things into yawns for a lot of people. Now, it's resonable to ask just how fantastic an element needs to be in a game about killing stuff and taking its treasure, but feeling burned out on the standard tropes has led to a lot of folks reaching for the Weird. It's funny that almost 100 year-old tropes can seem fresh and untrod territory, but fantasy is nothing if not a conservative genre, I guess.

The trouble is, those elements might get a little stale for some people, too, with repetition. So there's the New Weird or gonzo, of course, but I'd also like to suggest that maybe things don't have to be wholly "new." They just have to be a bit surprising, and those surprises can each be employed a small number of times so they stay fresh.

I think looking back to mythology and folklore helps a lot, because there are a lot of forgotten elements in those that make no sense from the modern perspective, and so have tended to be dropped from retellings. Medieval bestiaries are good, too.

Here's an interesting thing I came across a couple of years ago: "mundane" animals as treasure guardians:

Washington Irving notes the folk-belief that the spiritual guardians of buried treasure could take on the form of animals, such as toads. “Wild vines entangled the trees, and flaunted in their faces; brambles and briers caught their clothes as they passes; the garter snake glided across their path; the spotted toad hopped and waddled before them; and the restless cat-bird mewed at them from every thicket. Had Wolfert Webber [a man in search of treasure, but who was unschooled in folk-magic] been deeply read in romantic legend, he might have fancied himself entering upon forbidden enchanted ground; or that these were some of the guardians set to keep watch upon buried treasure.” Diedrich Knickerbocker (pseud.), “The Adventures of the Black Fisherman,” Tales of a Traveller (1825), 2: 356.

So replace a dragon or some other "fantastic" creature with just an animal, acting kind of strange and maybe able to talk. Adventure Time! sort of (I'm sure unknowingly) uses this trope with a frog that serves as a portal to lumpy space:

Monsters that want to chat, instead of kill the party immediately, are also a mythological staple that is not as often done in rpgs (though I try to do a bit of this in Mortzengersturm). This one can hard because PCs are a stabby lot, but it can help put them in the old school mindset of the goal being to get treasure, not necessarily kill things. A loquacious monster is a challenge, not an encounter.

Finally I would suggest the behavioral reskin (this is sort of a broader application of the talking monster principle). We're all familiar with putting new flesh on a set of stats, but a more subtler reskin will sometimes surprise players more. If goblins aren't following their Gygaxian role, but instead all consumed with building/repairing some ancient machine, maybe that hooks the PCs interest? Maybe it's only me, but I think backwards talking derro that can only be understood if you look in a mirror as they speak, move a known monster away from an evil dwarf back to the Shaverian paranoid weirdness.

Those are just some examples, which may or may not work for you, but I'm sure you can think of your own. Instead of trying hard to make things fresh and new, just make them a little odd.

Friday, August 21, 2020

Weird Revisited: Draconic Correspondences

This comes from a productive accidental brainstorming with Richard and Mateo on the late G+ back in its glory days of 2015.

Chromatic Dragon Colors & Alchemical Associations:
Black: lead, vitriol (sulfuric acid), fire, the smell of sulfur, putrefation, phelgmatic.
Blue: tin, rust, water, acrid smell, dissolution, melancholic.
Green: copper, earth, saltpeter, chlorine smell, amalgamation, sanguine.
Red: iron, air, sodium carbonate, rotten egg smell, separation, choleric.
White: silver, alchemical mercury, after a rain smell, unemotional.

Thursday, August 20, 2020

Star Trek Ranger: Romulan Encounter

Player Characters:
The Crew of the USS Ranger, Federation scout ship:
Aaron as Lt., j.g. Cayson Randolph, Operations Officer
Andrea as Capt. Ada Greer
Billy as Lt. Cmdt. Sobek, Ship's Counselor
Dennis as Lt. Osvaldo Marquez, Medical Officer
Paul as Cmdr. D.K. Mohan, Chief Helmsman

Synposis: After capturing the Romulans planetside, the away team beams back to the ship to find they have just received a distress call from the Burnell. It's systems are failing and it's running out of time. A painstaking search of the nebula brings them to the warp shuttle--and none to soon because its power is failing and life-support with it. Before they can rescue the crew, the Romulan cruiser Veritex uncloaks and demands they turn over everything they have on the energy weapon on the planet!

Not eager to fight, the Ranger crew negotiates an exchange with the Romulan commander: the Ranger lowers it's shields and beams over the Burnell's crew, while the Romulan's transporter their captured shuttle crew off the Ranger.

Commentary: While I was all set to run a space combat here, the players took the Star Trekian way out and found a nonviolent solution. Mohan's skill at persuasion proved extremely useful as did the ship's counselor Sobek's unexpected acumen with the sensors.

The Romulan vessel was a V-9 temar vastaram "Night Flyer" cruiser, from the FASA Romulan supplement. The Burnell was also a type of ship FASA created: the Pulsar Class warp shuttle.

Wednesday, August 19, 2020

Wild Wild West Wednesday

This is your periodic reminder that my review of the high points of the Wild Wild West television series from the 1960s, aided by Jim "Flashback Universe" Shelley continues on the Flashback Universe Blog under the Wild Wild West label. A new installment is up today.

Monday, August 17, 2020

Insurgent Middle Earth

If we take The Silmarillion as Elvish mythology (which it is), then most of the doings in Middle Earth are a proxy conflict between two super-powers: Sauron and his minions and the Valar and the Elves. We needn't assume either side is particularly good, In fact, we know the Valar unleashed a devastating weapon of mass destruction against their former allies in Numenor just for getting to cozy with Sauron.

In the modern era, Sauron's forces have been engaged in a protracted occupation of  Eriador. Through the action of the Mordor proxy Angmar, the Western kingdoms of Man were shattered, much of the population fled south, but fanatical bands, the Rangers, structured around the heir to throne of Arnor and Gondor, and supported by the Elves, continued to fight an insurgency against Mordor's Orcish forces and her allies.

Sauron has been a distant and not terribly effective leader for sometime. He has been unable to consolidate Angmar's victory over Arnor (a victory that saw Angmar destroyed in the process) and unable to wipe out the remaining Elvish enclaves and human insurgents.

You get the idea. Shorn of much of it's epic fantasy trappings, Middle Earth becomes a grittier place, where Men, Orcs, and local Elves, are all dealing with the aftermath of a terrible war wrought by super-powers that they perhaps only have the smallest of stakes in, but yet are forced to take most of the risk.

Seems like an interesting place to adventure. 

Friday, August 14, 2020

Spelljammer Revisted: Wings Between Worlds

Occasionally I forget I had actually written a post as opposed to just having the idea, but this one I did write in 2018. It is relevant I think as another perspective on my recent Spelljammer considerations.

Because space-faring sailing ships are so 80s, let's have genuine aircraft flying between worlds, perhaps open cockpit, certainly of the bat-winged, Frazetta variety. Space will have to have air, of course. Let's say the system is enclosed in a big Dyson Sphere--a crystal sphere, if you like. With a sphere full of air, the temperature of the worlds at the various orbits will be of less concern, though where the warmth and the light comes from will have to wait.

The technology of the primary society might be what we would call Dieselpunk, except it isn't particularly punk or Diesel, but it's that between the Wars era, sort of art deco stuff filtered through science fiction. Automobiles out of Flash Gordon and that sort of thing. And, of course magic.

Might as well port in a little bit of Planescape and have the worlds be more a more pulp planet version of the Gygaxian planes. The full compliment of D&D races would be necessary for a Star Wars Cantina vibe. Flash Gordon will help there, too.  The worlds might move in very eccentric orbits. Travel between them might mostly be by sight rather than map.

Thursday, August 13, 2020

Weird Revisited: D&D Races as UFOlogy Aliens

The original version of this post appeared in August of 2018...


I bought these Japanese alien figurines about four years ago. Looking at them yesterday, I though they might make good new skins for for D&D races.

Elves = Gray
They're both fan favorites with all the mystique.

Gnomes = Hopskinville Goblin
Magical little pranksters.

Halflings = "Apache" Alien
Their both child-like and cutesy, I guess. Not so sure about this one. (I actually don't know what alien this is supposed the represent. It looks like a Neonate, but the name "Apache" is odd.)

Goliath = Voronezh Alien

Dwarf = Frog Alien
Let's break the Dwarf/Beard connection once and for all. I suppose the Roswell Alien as pictured would be an alternate. Though I and other have statted up frogling races for 5e.

Tiefling = "Triglia" Alien
He's demonic looking!

Monday, August 10, 2020

To Rescue the Duke


Our Land of Azurth 5e game continued last night, with the party plotting to free the Duke of Dhoona from the curse after having killed the evil, plant priest Slekht Zaad. Luckily, Zaad was at least truthful about bringing the antidote, they just have to find a means to deliver it.

Bell and Waylon (the only two not wanted but the city guard) go into the city in disguise to buy a wagon and oxen to sneak the others back in. They return, and everyone else hides in the wagon in any illusory pill of dung.

Once back in the city, they again seek sanctuary in the Temple of Azulina. They send Shade and Waylon to invisibly scout the ducal palace. They find it strangely unguarded, but they are wary.

The group decides to create a diversion with Kully the Bard rabble-rousing against the Duke's crazy policies (most specifically his beer tax) and the rest of the part readying for an invisible infiltration of the palace at the proper time. Kully's tactics work, and a small, but dedicated mob advances to cavort rudely in the Duke's beer fountain. Predictably, guards pour out of the palace to subdue them, and the rest of the part gets inside.

Searching quickly (i.e., not stopping to take treasure), they make their way to the upstairs. The palace is mostly empty, but they first discover were Zaad's ally the Guard Captain Draco Battles and his lieutenants are staying. After a tense moment, they manage to avoid them while invisible. Finally, they discover the Duke's room. Dagmar's Remove Curse has no effect on the mad Duke, but Waylon blows the antidote powder into his eyes, and the Duke comes to himself.

The Duke is only out of the party's sight for a moment, when Draco's men try to nab him. The party rescues the Duke and slays the two.

The restored Duke makes the other guards stand down. He rewards the party for their heroism, and allows Waylon to start up a party on the palace grounds with the liberated beer.

Sunday, August 9, 2020

More Classic TSR Settings as 70s Paperbacks

In comments on my last post of this sort, a request was made for Planescape and Spelljammer. I was happy to oblige.

Art by Bruce Pennington. Title typeface is Dynamo (well, actually Nougat which is an homage).

Art is by Richard M. Powers. Title typeface is ITC Busorama.

Thursday, August 6, 2020

Star Trek Ranger: The Obelisk

Player Characters:
The Crew of the USS Ranger, Federation scout ship:
Aaron as Lt., j.g. Cayson Randolph, Operations Officer
Andrea as Capt. Ada Greer
Billy as Lt. Cmdt. Sobek, Ship's Counselor
Dennis as Lt. Osvaldo Marquez, Medical Officer
Paul as Cmdr. D.K. Mohan, Chief Helmsman

Synposis: Still searching for the lost Burnell, the Ranger away team has encountered survivors of a Romulan scout vessel crash, and discovered a mysterious signal emanating from alien ruins. Searching for those, they encounter non-Federation mining camp.

Commentary: This was the second session of Star Trek Adventures with the Ranger crew, playing through "Signals" from the Quickstart rules, tailored for the Original Series era. This session was mostly taken up by a firefight (then fist fight) with some Romulans. I modified the adventure to encourage a fist fight, as that's more TOS as opposed to a lot phaser blasting--though we still had a lot of lot.

The party is conspicuously light on security heavy personnel--they probably should have some supporting characters for something like this. I'll have to member that for later adventures. Still, everybody got to do their "thing" which is good.

I described the miners here as dressed like the ones in the episode "Devil in the Dark."

Wednesday, August 5, 2020

Wednesday Comics: Comics Kickstarters

Two recent comics Kickstarters I backed have at least partially delivered.

Dan Brereton's Giantkiller Monster edition arrived yesterday and it is pretty sweet. It reprints the 90s limited series with supplemental material in a larger format. It's really pretty. 

I don't this version is available, but looks like the original collection is still available on Amazon.

Warlock 5 was an a black and white fantasy comic in the 80s by Den Beauvais and Gordon Derry. He wasn't completed at the time but the new omnibus promises to do just that. This one you can pre-order.

Sunday, August 2, 2020

TSR Settings as 70s Paperbacks

For no good reason, I decided to reimagine two classic D&D settings as 70s mass market trade paperbacks.

Art by Ken Kelly

Art by Sanjulin