Dec 15, 2014

Old Files Now on Google Drive

The Tellian Sector, complete with map, planetary profiles, and a listing of active espionage organisations in the Tellian system itself.

Backgrounds for Moragne, my Runequest 6 / Legend / Mongoose Runequest 2 setting loosely modeled after Angevin England. Suitable for any JAFE (Just Another Fantasy Europe) setting.

My overland travel reference sheet for the Moragne campaign.

The primer for my Moragne campaign.

My potion tables for use with my alchemy rules. These are built off of procedural metapharmacology.

Iron Heartbreakers v. 1.52, my Microlite20 swords and sorcery game inspired by Iron Heroes. It's ideal if you want low or no-magic PCs.

The Necrocarcerus v. 1.1 rules document as well as a map of Necrocarcerus showing rail connections. Also, a copy of the wandering monster table for SAFE AREA DUVANOVIC, a mini-campaign setting within Necrocarcerus that I'm writing.

Dec 14, 2014

Reviews: Relics of the Lost / Engines of Babylon

I'll admit I can't figure out the numbering system for Stars Without Number supplements. Polychrome is W1, Relics of the Lost is W2, Engines of Babylon is W3, but Darkness Visible, Suns of Gold, Skyward Steel, and Dead Names are all unnumbered, as are the Mandate Archives. I've already reviewed the Mandate Archives, Darkness Visible and Polychrome, and I'll be writing reviews of Skyward Steel, Suns of Gold, and Dead Names shortly.

Relics of the Lost and Engines of Babylon are sort of a natural pairing beyond their numbering because they are both gear books for Stars Without Number. Relics of the Lost is focused on pretech (SWN's equivalent of magical items), while the core of Enginess of Babylon is the vehicle and slowboat rules, though both books have thematically overlapping sections. For the record, I think they should have been merged into a single large gear book similar to MongTraveller's Central Supply Catalogue because of the extensive thematic overlap, but I'm not too chuffed about it.

Relics of the Lost is a 32 page book with sections on weapons and armour; medical devices (mainly stims, the healing potion-equivalent in SWN); pretech consumer goods (miscellaneous magical items); robots; maltech, and some random loot generation tables to insert them into adventures. A few of the tables in it look like they were recycled, adapted or updated from The Dust, one of the Mandate Archive supplements that had the original pretech generation rules in it. Some of the information around maltech is adapted from Darkness Visible. I think the reuse of the Dust tables is fine, but the treatment of maltech is somewhat weak in Relics compared to Darkness Visible, and the treatment in Relics' maltech section veers away from the concreteness of the rest of the book's material. The maltech isn't intended for PC use, but it might be nice to provide a set of sample procedures for ghoul immortality, or a list of time-bomb devices / situations for NPC villains to have as goals.

If one wanted to avoid getting too bogged down with the mechanics, a set of tags related to each one that could be slotted into the SWN adventure-creation system would be ideal. "Roll on this table for your Allies, Enemies, Complications, Places and Things if you want to run an adventure where a ghoul immortality cult is the main villain" would be ideal, as well as being new material that wasn't in Darkness Visible. Dead Names and Engines of Babylon split the difference here (adventure material for weirdo transhumanists and concrete maltech devices, respectively), so it's unfortunate Relics doesn't. I think this might be an artifact of it originally being a stretch goal of the Stars Without Number Bundle of Holding.

Despite that complaint, the book is generally strong. Like all good gear books, it's mostly very concrete, with items statted up and variations noted. One particularly strong element of the descriptions is that they mostly list what the original use of the item was in the pretech era (the ancient galaxy-spanning technologically advanced era that precedes the default setting for SWN and justifies the existence of ruins and mysterious wonders). This helps the referee decide what kinds of gear from the book might be appropriate for different ruin locations.

 Of its sections, I liked the one on stims the most, since it took a boring but necessary component of the game (sci-fi healing potions) and provided a number of options for making them interesting. I think some of this material is recycled or adapted from Other Dust, but a lot of it is new and interesting. In particular, the stim manufacturer brands at the end of the section, complete with mechanical differentiation between them, is a nice touch.

The sections on robots and consumer items are also strong. There are eight kinds of robots listed that would be appropriate for pretech sites, and a couple are very cool and interesting, particularly the culler and the kami. The culler robots are basically murderbots that harvest your organs to make anagathic drugs, while the kami are nanite clouds that form drone to attack you.. Stats are given so that if you have an AI PC, you could have them use any of the robots as armatures. The consumer items section fills out the "miscellaneous magical items" list for SWN, and is mostly colourful, interesting and useful while being plausibly weird.

Engines of Babylon is a 41 page supplement dealing with gear. I like it a lot as a supplement, but I'm going to list one format complaint here. Both it and Dead Names have some new sans-serif font for their body text, instead of the typical font used by the rest of the line. It looks like Verdana or another screen-based font and makes them harder to read in print (at least for me). I don't know why the decision was made, but insofar as my vote counts for anything, I'd encourage the return to the old SWN body font (which looked like Aldus?). It's a minor complaint though.

The book is split into sections dealing with vehicles (including vehicle creation, vehicle operation rules, and sample vehicles; sublight or slowboat ships (including creation and operation rules); some more magical items (in general ones that are more powerful than in Relics of the Lost) and maltech devices. Despite thematic similarities in the last two sections with Relics of the Lost, the material is entirely new.

Vehicle and slowboat creation are basically variations of the starship creation and operation rules in the SWN corebook, though they have entirely new module options in both cases, including some cool pretech fittings for vehicles. The example vehicles and slowboats are pretty solid, and cover most of the common options you'd want. The slowboat section has two pages of material on using slowboats in games, including how combat between them differs combat involving spike drive-capable ships with "Quantum ECM" (SWN's handwavium for why intelligent drone-missiles don't dominate space combat, previously established in Skyward Steel and the corebook).

The section dealing with the pretech items differs a bit from Relics of the Lost in a few subtle ways. The items in Engines tend to be more powerful, but also more easily exhausted or expended than in Relics (where most items either work fine, or just need batteries). It reads like the items in Engines were designed to be either the goal or spark for an adventure, whereas most of the items in Relics feel more like "loot" you'd get during an adventure. There's also some nice work making a lot of the items here feel more like the extravagant decadences of long lost Mandate directors rather than another cool space TV.

The maltech section in Engines is nicely concrete and appropriately horrific. I particularly like the telekinetic mining equipment that floods prisoners with psychic energy at the cost of their lives and sanity while allowing an evil telekinetic to literally tear apart a world with their powers. I think it's got some interesting allegorical heft, as well as being a really interesting device to structure a set of adventures around - both while it's in the bad guy's hands as well as once it falls into the PCs. The rest of the devices are similarly interesting, including stuff to make people god-kings, destroy stars, and genetically tamper with enemies.

Broadly speaking, the difference I elaborated above between Relics and Engines is the key decision point if you're only planning to pick up one, or trying to decide which your game needs. Relics is at its core a "loot" book, with lots of stuff designed to be used by PCs without breaking the game or trivialising all their problems. Engines is (mostly) a set of game-changing items that you could build entire stories around, with a few modular add-ons to provide richness to specific activities.

Dec 11, 2014

Necrocarcerus Campaign Map and Quest Notes

Here's some screencaps of the Realtimeboard that I use to run and track things for the Necrocarcerus campaign I'm running on Google Plus. Of the various whiteboard programs I've looked around at, Realtimeboard seems to be the best for my purposes. I use the free version, and if I could improve the program in any way, it would be for Google Hangout integration, so I could use it in real time while playing. As it stands, it's mainly a repository for campaign information.
This is the map of End-of-the-World and surrounds, out in the Far Lands of Necrocarcerus, where the campaign is set. It includes both areas the PCs have visited and explored, areas they've received some sort of direction to. The pictures may not show it, but there's a grid (though this map doesn't really use it).

I use the post-it notes to track quests. Purple is a quest-giver contact, orange are open contracts, and pink are leads, ideas, and tasks requiring PC motivation. This is the top half of the map with its quests. Also, it isn't shown here, but each of the locations has a comment bubble on the actual board that contains an update about what's happened there recently.

This is the bottom half of the map with its quests attached. This is a "player-friendly" map - everything on it can be seen by the PCs. I also have a hex map of this area which I use for calculating travel times and running hexcrawls, which is a DM-only document generated with Hexographer.

At other parts of this board (not shown), I've uploaded treasure maps, embedded a PDF of the Necrocarcerus 1.1 rules (and when 1.2 is done, I'll upload that in turn), and set up a map for a later adventure.

Oct 22, 2014

Necrocarcerus Rules Updated - Version 1.1

I've updated the Necrocarcerus House Rules document to version 1.1 (353kb PDF). The link is to download this most recent version from Google Drive.

Changes include:

Hireling rules added.
Note-taker role added.
Stat modifier progression added.
Prime attribute XP modifiers added.
Rules for determining how to determine starting HP; How HP increases with level.
Social combat recalculations added.
Rangers can now only wear medium armour (previously they could wear heavy armour).
Spell failure chance while wearing armour you're not proficient with table added.
"Area" weapon quality and rule added.
Book, cleaning kit and coffee pot added to the equipment list.
Food, lodging, poisons, servants and services added to the equipment lists.
Effects of poison listed.
Costs related to changing alignment now listed.
Clarification that PCs may pursue expertise with social attack forms.
Clarification that everyone is proficient with hats.
Clarification around how you are supposed to obtain nepenthe and your own obol.
Some minor wording changes for clarification in almost every section.
Standardised formats for numbers.
The margins were changed slightly (narrowed) to allow more text per page.
The Lighting section, Spells & Spellcasting sections and Nepenthe sections were reformatted for readability.

That's everything I can think of. I've been working on this for about a week. It's about three pages longer than the previous document, although there's actually more content that's been added, it's just disguised by the increased page margins.

Oct 16, 2014

Hirelings in Necrocarcerus

This is straight from the Necrocarcerus House Rules Document 1.1 (to be finished much more promptly than 1.0 was). I chipped a bunch of it from Courtney Campbell, though I believe Heads Will Be Splattered is a unique and original adaptation of Shields Will be Splintered by me.


Hirelings are distinct from servants and specialists, who will assist PCs with tasks for a fee, but will not join them in peril. They are unable to accomplish anything requiring more than cursory attention or effort without the direct supervision of a PC.

Murderous Cretin
Jaded Thrillkiller
Death Cultist
Misguided Friend
Duped Novice
Inhumanoid Bravo
Rambunctious Drunk
Free-Spirited Golemic
Unreliable Gadabout
Impulsive Familiar
Self-absorbed Penitent
Unwholesome Mystic

Hirelings in Combat

Hirelings do not attack or defend on their own, and enemies will not normally target them. Instead, hirelings add +1 per hireling to a PC’s attacks and AC as they assist in distracting, confounding, and otherwise bedeviling opponents.

Heads Will Be Splattered
Hirelings may be sacrificed like shields and hats to absorb hits targeting a PC. A hireling who absorbs a hit is killed. A hireling receives no benefit from a shield or hat of their own.
Compensating Hirelings
A typical compensation for hirelings is ½ share of the treasure accumulated on the adventure. Some hirelings may demand other, even more unpleasant, rewards for their assistance

Hirelings will expect PCs to provide them with any specialised gear or mounts, and to cover any fees they incur.

Recruiting Hirelings

Hirelings cannot be recruited through normal channels as they, like the PCs, do not participate in the labour market. They must be found while adventuring and persuaded to join the party.

Oct 13, 2014

Necrocarcerus: The Rules

The Necrocarcerus House Rules Document is complete!

Download the rules from this link. It's a 651 KB PDF file.

The Necrocarcerus map is available from this link. (1.77 MB JPEG)

With these house rules and a copy of Swords and Wizardry Complete you should be able to create and play a character in Necrocarcerus. Necrocarcerus is a Flailsnails game though, with dead or living Flailsnails PCs welcome to adventure within.

I appreciate any and all feedback on it that people want to give. Anyone who wants to play in the Necrocarcerus game, which will be running biweekly on Saturdays at 9am EST starting this Saturday, is welcome to find me on G+ and let me know so they can be invited.

Oct 11, 2014

A Miscellany of Rules for Necrocarcerus

Some rules from the Necrocarcerus House Rules document, and a table governing available phone plans in Necrocarcerus. The first rule is on lighting:

"Light sources with a radius shine good lighting in a circle out to their distance, and shine dim lighting out to twice that distance. Cones shine in a 45-degree arc with good lighting out to their distance and shine to twice that distance with dim lighting. Beams shine on one object that they are pointed directly at with good lighting. They may be pointed at another object with an action. Someone with a beam pointed at their eyes counts as blinded."

Bullseye Lantern
20m cone
4 hrs.
Glow Button
40m beam
2m radius
1d4 turns
Safety Lantern
10m radius
4 hrs.
Waterproof Torch
10m radius
6 turns
Underwater Flare
2m radius
1 turn

The next two are on readied items and encumbrance:

"Ready items may be drawn and used in a round without expending an action. Stowed items require a round to dig them out for use. An item is readied or stowed depending on what container the PC has it in. Armour or items that a character is wearing (i.e. hats), and items they are holding in their hands always count as readied."

"PCs can carry a number of heavy items (H) equal to their Strength score freely. 1000 obols, 10 light items (L) or 5 medium items (-) can be bundled up into 1 heavy item. PCs carrying up to 2x their Strength score are encumbered and cannot run or use their hands. (NP) items cannot be carried."

Chest / Coffer
Frame Pack
1H or 1-
Scroll Case
Utility Belt
4L + 1-
Webbing Belt
8L + 2-

And on phone plans:
Cost / Mo.
Phone Calls; Texts; Clock
+ 2m beam Light; Camera; Calendar
+ Video; Conference Call Hosting

All costs are in obols.

Oct 5, 2014

Adventures in Necrocarcerus

Courtney Campbell is taking a short break from Numenhalla, which means I will be taking over the time slot (Saturday mornings 9am EST on Google Plus) to run Necrocarcerus.

In the Necrocarcerus campaign, after all other book-keeping is done, play begins with the PCs selecting one of four possible motivations for this week's adventures, depending on the style of play and adventure type they want. Once the motivation is selected, I select / roll up the adventure they will be going on as a result.

PCs may be deluded by the Confabulations of Lunatics, going on site-based adventures.

PCs may be restless, reckless, and On the Lam, going on hexcrawls, pointcrawls and overland adventures.

PCs may fall prey to the Whims of Maniacs, receiving task-based quests to accomplish for patrons.

PCs may make Poor Life Decisions, pursuing their own agendas and finding themselves in hot water.

As a sample of what these mean, I will list one rejected result from the list for each:

Confabulations: " A strike by rail workers leaves the PCs at Ottavo Station in the Far Lands. They hear of the fearsome Pyramid of the Adamantine Rat a day's journey away on foot. A guy handing out maps to tourists tells them of the ancient cult that built the Pyramid, and their fabulous alchemical wealth"

On the Lam: 'After being permanently banned from the Last Teahouse in the Far Lands for excessive revelry, the PCs find themselves on the edge of town. The rail line stretches off far to the west, while a sign saying "Forbidden" points down a muddy path through some ruins."

Whims of Maniacs: "The PCs are hired by the Underlord Santobar Nkruma to steal the cursed head of Occlan from the Museum of Impossibilities."

Poor Life Decisions: "The PCs wake up hungover and covered in blood in the royal suite of an inn, clutching a map and the severed head of Devil Mike, which is muttering something in an unknown tongue. Guards pound on the door."

Sep 24, 2014

The Inhumanoids of Necrocarcerus

The inhumanoids are the sentient creations of the rogue vorticist surgeons, one of the first forms of hylic "life" they learn to mold on the way to the clonal hylic bodies amongst which a master vorticist surgeon eventually distributes their consciousness.

Most inhumanoids follow a roughly human-like design, though they tend to be more resilient and stronger.They grow to adult size within a day or so of emerging from the vats. New inhumanoids are fed a slurry of nepenthe and pseudo-brain to instill them with necessary skills and the rudiments of a personality. This creates a tremendous demand amongst vorticists for illegal supplies of nepenthe and sacrificial victims.

The hordes of inhumanoids that periodically plague Necrocarcerus almost always originate in a vorticist surgeon losing interest in them, often even leaving fully operational spawning vats behind. These abandoned inhumanoids are often distraught and heavily armed.

Inhumanoids use orc, goblin, kobold, bugbear, hobgoblin or ogre stats, depending on their type.

Aug 27, 2014

Places to Go, Things to Kill: Ocean Null

Ocean Null is the ocean of Necrocarcerus. It does not exist in any particular location, but may be reached by losing sight of land while on an open body of water, whether from fog, darkness, or other means. It may be exited by following one of its currents until the correct shore is reached. It is a vast, stormwracked body of water mainly of use to smugglers, warlords and desperate merchants, though over the aeon of its existence it has accumulated many things that may be of interest to adventurers.

Places to Go

Vigilant Pantagruel

A town built in the empty eye-socket of a vast and ancient skeleton that rises out of the depths. Only the head is visible, though the feet are said to rest at the bottom of a oceanic chasm five kilometres below. The inhabitants mine the skull's teeth for massive slabs of bone harder than steel, and trade it to necromancers for use in undead juggernauts. It is overseen by the Parliament of Pirates, self-proclaimed lords of Ocean Null. Vigilant Pantagruel is a free port where all are welcome, no matter their crimes.

The Lashing Eyes

The Lashing Eyes are a pair of lighthouses that oversee the Great Malestrom, the largest permanent whirlpool in Ocean Null. They sit on small islands on either side of the maelstrom, and the lights are green flames endlessly spurting from the mouths of massive statues of gargoyles on iron pillars. The islands are populated by a handful of refugees who survived the Great Maelstrom and are led by the legendary killer Tzalka Mur, and the crabmen they have enslaved, who dredge untold riches from the shipwrecks laying at the bottom of the whirlpool.

Coal Slag Island

An AUC-run prison atop a giant coal seam jutting out of Ocean Null. Inmates dig the coal and refuel AUC steamers traversing Ocean Null. A red Guardian, Allumex-8, oversees their punishment, and uses fire elementals for guards. Because of its out-of-the-way location, Coal Slag Island is a popular place to hold onto high-value prisoners who are likely to escape or be freed by their allies. The entire island is blanketed with choking soot and toxic coal slag, with the narrow tip of Coal Slag Bastion poking out of the smoke. The prisoners here have a tendency to go mad and become coal wights, who are let to roam around outside the fortified mining areas to discourage escape.

Things to Kill

The Kraken Shipyard

The fever-dream of the mad dream-smith Gotomba Ryoat, the kraken shipyard is a massive golemic kraken that sails around building ships. Unfortunately, to do so it disassembles whatever ships and other objects it finds sailing loose in the ocean for their the raw materials it needs. Those sailors who do not resist are allowed to board the kraken, where they serve as labourers assisting the host of smaller golems who do work too fine for the massive manipulators. The kraken shipyard is a master at its task, and can build a ship out of almost anything in under a day. Gotomba Ryoat is long dead. His body can be seen behind the impenetrable glass of the bridge window, slumped dead over the control panel. The codes to access the bridge were lost upon his death, and now no one can prevent the kraken shipyard from destroying whatever it comes across to build more ships.

The Red Sea Bankers

The Red Sea Bank is a group of vampire pirate-captains, and one of the more aggressive pirate fleets operating across Ocean Null. Most of their crews are thralls, zombies and sea-ghouls, though they will also hypnotise the crews of ships they have captured. The Bank maintains a treasure house in Vigilant Pantagruel, but they maintain a low key presence in almost every major port in Ocean Null. Their leader, Bloodbeard, rides a skeletal chariot drawn by two nightmares that launches from the deck of his flagship, the Furious Hunger.

The Sea Devils of G'Dur

G'Dur was the Guardians' attempt to build a small city in Ocean Null as a fortified outpost for AUC. The experiment failed when the volcanic island G'Dur was on exploded. The city crumbled into the newly-formed lagoon in the centre of the island, and the few inhabitants that didn't die in the cataclysm fled, never to return. Since its abandonment, a tribe of sahaugin have taken over and appropriated the technology and infrastructure of lost G'Dur for their own uses. The tribe now numbers in the thousands, and their army is well equipped with cannons and harpoon guns. G'Dur's site was chosen so that the currents of several major exits from Ocean Null flow near to it, which the sea devils have used to their benefit by attacking ships for materials hard to obtain on G'Dur.

Aug 23, 2014

Fighters Get Better Initiative

I have come around over time to the system of initiative Courtney Campbell uses in Numenhalla as simple and effective. Briefly, the system is that each side (PCs and monsters) rolls a d6, with the higher roll going first. Even ties are resolved in favour of the player acting first, odd ties result in the monsters going first. I used to be more of a proponent of individual initiative, and still use it in some games, but for Swords and Wizardry, and other old school D&D versions I play, I tend towards using this method.

I have a proposed alterations to this system which I will be experimenting with in the next Necrocarcerus campaign:

If a fighter is the highest level character in the party (or all characters are of equivalent level), then the group may roll a d8 for initiative.

The idea is that the fighter is tactically acute in a way other characters aren't, and helps coordinate not just their own actions, but the actions of others, allowing them an operational edge. You can continue to roll surprise on a d6.

Aug 22, 2014

Feats of Strength: A Proposal for Fighters

I play Swords and Wizardry Complete, where there is no "Exceptional Strength" score. I like the idea of "Bend Bars / Lift Gates" as an ability one has, but suggest that you make it a fighter class feature instead of based specifically on Strength scores.

I use Jack Shear's suggestion that all Thief skills use the Hear Noise d6 table, modified by my own rule that Assassins, bards, dandies and monks (and all other classes that receive thief skills) use the same rule, but at -1 compared to thieves (so whereas a thief starts off at 3 in 6 and goes up, other classes start at 2 in 6 and go up).

I propose that we use an identical table to the Thief Hear Noise d6 table for feats of strength - singular exertions of power and force - that a fighter wishes to perform, whether battering down doors, hurling boulders back at giants, hoisting the portcullis of the castle, dragging the elephant he's just lassoed to its knees, picking up an opponent and using them as a living missile, etc. Barbarians, rangers, paladins, etc. may do the same thing, but at the same -1 penalty that thief-like classes suffer in comparison to thieves using their skills. In cases where it might constitute an attack, an attack roll skill needs to be made, this roll simply allows the feat to even be possible in the first place.

The intent here is not that fighters are automatically the strongest class around (though they do tend to be), but rather than this represents their capacity for heroic exertion under stress. I recommend against allowing it to replace normal athletics tests for running, jumping, swimming, climbing, etc. (I will be using Skills: The Middle Road in Necrocarcerus when I start it up again). Instead, this is precisely there to cover the exceptional feats that we read about in epic literature that are otherwise not well represented in the rules. I encourage players to come up with exciting and interesting feats of strength for use in the game.

There are no limits to how often fighters can use feats of strength, and I encourage a permissive attitude, since this encourages fights to follow unpredictable, dynamic progressions involving the feats of strength. Individual referees may wish to establish beforehand with the players of fighters whether these feats of strength can actually be superhuman (as some examples mentioned above are), or merely at the extreme limits of what is humanly capable (the strength of the exemplary mother lifting a car off of her children in a fit of adrenaline).

One simple possible variation of the rule would be to have the feats of strength be merely humanly possible until a player hits 9th level, and then allow them to become superhuman.

Jun 23, 2014

Safe Area Duvanovic Introduction

AUC Airship Survey of Duvanovic Operational Theatre, Sector 5
The Ooze Salient, Necrocarcerus, 9998:

The flag is a clenched blue fist on a black field, and it waves over the last six blocks still intact in what was once the mega-borough of Duvanovic. The ooze-collaborationist Popular Purity Front, led by Rotman Carkel, lords over this micro-state in reward for their service in the first phase of the oozes' ultragenocide of the Braemonian citizens of Necrocarcerus. The outside streets are a no man's land stalked by inhumanoids, bandits, the undead, loyalist partisans and flesh-horrors produced by the oozes' war machine. Somewhere in the distance, the thunder of loyalist bombards and the reality-crackle of Weapon Q promise that liberation is coming, but the thousands of refugees who have flooded in can hardly wait. Food has run short, the water supplies are fouled, disease is rampant, and theosadists pluck people at random and subject them to demented tortures for their own pleasure. The rich pay black marketeers to smuggle them to safety, while the poor pray to the Creator that tomorrow a gas shell will fly astray and put them out of their misery.

Soldiers of the Popular Purity Front


1) Partisan infiltrator here to overthrow the Popular Purity Front on behalf of AUC.
2) Stranded by black marketeers who stole your money and dumped you here.
3) Convalescent from wounds in an earlier phase of the campaign.
4) Last survivor of a mercenary scavenger gang here to make their fortunes.

The random encounter table for wandering the no-man's land of Safe Area Duvanovic