Category Archives: General Geekness

NTRPG Con 2016 Recap

As one of the lucky ones, I got to go to this year’s North Texas RPG Con in Fort Worth. Here’s what I got up to while I was there…

Thursday

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I drove to Dallas in a rented Dodge Dart, through deluges and downpours of not-quite-biblical proportions. I got a late start and hit the hotel with just enough time to check in and throw my stuff into the room before rushing downstairs to discover that my game for the night was canceled due to not enough folks signing up. Nobody but me was interested in what was essentially going to be a Master Class in GMing given by Frank Mentzer, apparently.

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I shrugged it off and began the great wandering. I promptly ran into the aforementioned Frank covering for someone in the dealer room. We chatted a bit and he plans to offer the same session next year, but with a better description in the program. So hopefully it’ll happen.

I spent the rest of the night wandering and chatting and having a couple of drinks with assorted folks. I ended up spending a chunk of time talking with Robert Parker of Hydra Cooperative at their booth. I snagged some goodies (Misty Isles of the Eld, some funky zines) and had a nice time. Then I turned in so I’d be fresh and ready for…

Friday

Friday morning I got up nice and early and had plenty of time to hit the breakfast buffet. Sadly, the food was a couple of notches down from last year’s Con. Remember that. It’ll come up later.

First on my geeky agenda for the day was sitting down to take part in a playtest/demo/whatever of Merle Rasmussen’s forthcoming new 21st Century espionage game, currently operating under the codename Acrid Herald. I played in a game of Top Secret with The Administrator (who’d rather be called the Spymaster, by the way) so I was already a little familiar with his style. He’s a very nice man who delights in bad puns and having fun at the table.

This mission was set in Cambodia (cue the Dead Kennedys) at a newly discovered site of multiple ancient animal temples. Only four of the six players showed up, but we dove in anyway. For the initial set up we each got to build our own animal temple out of a whole mess of Legos. These were then placed around a central temple complex and the whole thing formed the site of our mission. It was pretty darned neat.

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I’ll refrain from the blow-by-blow description of the adventure, since I believe Merle will be running this again at several other Cons over the summer. I can say that we succeeded in defeating the tricks and traps of the evil terrorist Hou-u bin Latelee and saved the temple complex from destruction while also eliminating several other threats to humanity in the process. It was a definite blast.

Acrid Herald itself was a little hard to figure out, owing to Merle’s fast-and-loose GMing style. The game appears to assign die types (e.g., d4, d10, etc.) to assorted attributes, skills, and equipment. Sometimes you roll the best die for the task – Got a d4 for physical stuff but also have a set of Gecko Gloves that rate at a d8? Roll the d8 for climbing. Sometimes you roll the two dice together – Got a d10 in shooting and a d6 for your 9mm? Roll ’em both and add together when trying to pop a cap in a bad guy. Sometimes, though, things seems just plain arbitrary. In any case, whenever the entity known as Gygax Games gets this thing out the door I’m sure I’ll be picking it up.

AH2

We wrapped things up in about four hours, so we ended early (to save Merle’s voice for the rest of the Con), which was fine. I needed mental time to prepare for running my Barbarians of Lemuria game, in no small par due to the fact that it was about to be the first game I’d run at a convention since 1985.

I spent most of the afternoon doing some last minute prep work and getting my brain in place. I grabbed an early dinner at the bar (still not good) and ordered up what was about to be one of many (many!) double Jamesons. I hit my room to throw some water on my face and then headed downstairs to the atrium.

Five of the six folks registered for my game showed up, which was entirely ok. Most of them had played BoL in some form or another at least once, and a couple even had copies of the Mythic Edition rules with them. So the time I had set aside for rules introduction wasn’t needed and we dove straight into the action. Oh, and there was action. And much more drinking on my part. Not enough to cause problems, mind you. But enough that I would feel it later. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

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Again, I won’t go into great detail regarding the game itself at this point. But I can say that BoL Mythic ran like a charm and many great fights happened along with some very solid roleplaying by the assembled strangers. Play was so fast, in fact, that I had to invent some things on the spot to make sure we didn’t blitz to the end. But that was really no problem – I think on my feet reasonably well and the booze hadn’t dulled my faculties too much. We hit the climax of the adventure at just about the right time and everyone was suitably creeped out and challenged by what to do in the face of what was happening at the Abbey of St. Giles the Green.

When the adventure ended everyone agreed that a good time was had and I’ve since heard from some of the players that if I run a game next year they’ll be signing up for it. So that’s quite the compliment, really.

Over the course of several breaks in the game I socialized a bit more with Robert from Hydra and also made the acquaintance of Jason Sholtis (another Hydra head). Jason and I share a lot of rock & roll background, which lead to some good conversations. I’d brought a number of my band’s CDs along to share with the cool kids, and I passed one along to Jason. Robert then began hatching a plan to have a number of us musician-y types put together a band to play at GenCon sometime or another (next year, perhaps). More on that in a bit.

After my game wrapped I went upstairs to drop off my stuff in advance of some more drinking, ideally to be spent with my pal Marc who had arrived earlier in the evening and/or the Hydra guys. But in proper Old School Sandbox Style I got waylaid by a random encounter. Heading back down stairs I ended up on the elevator with (hand to God) a traveling salesman from Cleveland who was just at the hotel for the night to catch a morning flight the next day.

I ended up missing out on hanging with the Con crowd due to a lengthy and interesting conversation with a guy who had nothing to do with gaming at all. He’d barely even heard of D&D and its ilk before, but was fascinated. So we talked about gaming quite a bit. But we also talked about marriages, divorces, web development, elderly parents, and a whole host of other topics. It was an unexpected but great way to spend the night. If only I hadn’t kept drinking. I barely made it to my room. That’s how hammered I was.

Saturday

To quote Elvis Costello, the hangover had a personality. And it wasn’t a nice one. I tried to make the Toon game I was scheduled to play in at 9:00. I really did. I got up. I showered. I got dressed. And then I hurled. So I crawled back to bed and slept until almost 1:00. I was awakened by a phone call from my wife letting me know that the DIY home improvements she was undertaking while I was off dorking out was, in fact, not at all going according to plan. Not exactly delightful news. But there are worse things in life. So hey, we’ll move on and everything will be OK eventually.

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After that, I got back up, reshowered, and headed downstairs to refuel, regroup, and to find Sniderman to apologize for having missed his game. Kind soul that he is, he absolved my guilt and I was able to begin the mental prep for running my second BoL game at peace with the world (and without any booze).

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Once more I’ll avoid going into great lengths about the game itself. But I can say that as good as the Friday night game was, Saturday night’s might have been even better. Amazing role-playing from all five of the players who made it to the table (I got another no-show, karma?). Terrible blood-drinking jungle plants were dispatched. Cannibalism was addressed. And the evil sorcerer who was behind it all met an appropriate fate while the children of the neanderthal village were safely returned. We still had about an hour we could have played when the main portions were wrapped up, but everyone agreed that the creepiness and laughter had been enough for one night. And the highest compliment I could have hoped to receive was given. Several of the players agreed that this was the best Con game they’d ever played in. Damn! That felt good to hear. But it absolutely wouldn’t have been true if all five dudes hadn’t been aces as players. So cheers to them!

After wrapping up and getting my stuff back to the room it was time to check out the storied “Satan’s Midnight Auction” event, in which bizarre junk is auctioned off to help raise funds for the Con. The auction was pretty funny to observe, but it was definitely a thing for the insiders more than the rest of us. I bailed pretty quickly and wound up chatting with a few folks – some from my home games and some new friends – before crashing out.

Sunday

Not having a hangover on Sunday morning was a nice thing. I didn’t have time to go on a breakfast run to the outside world, since I had to get packed and checked out before my 11 game. Instead I dined once again at the sub-par restaurant in the hotel with a group of friendly souls who I’ll look forward to seeing again next year.

Frank-TTR

My Sunday morning game was playing in the annual “Gygax Memorial Ticket To Ride Game” with Frank Mentzer. I’d been preparing for this for weeks, playing TTR on my phone against a full table of computer opponents. Unfortunately, I was playing the original and the actual game was the Europe version. No matter, I’d played that before. While everyone was playing Frank regaled us with tales of his time at TSR and his many good times with Gary. Despite my preparations I ultimately finished last for want of a single green train card. Had I gotten it within those last two round I actually would’ve won. But hey, it made for a great, tense game that was entirely worth playing. I intend to register for this again next year to avenge my loss. After that, though, I’ll leave off so someone else can enjoy story time with Uncle Frank.

Once the game was done it was time to wander one last bit to give my regards to anyone who was still hanging around. I had some nice conversations and then hit the road for the not-supposed-to-be long drive back to Austin. Sadly, some poor sucker got in a wreck and his truck caught on fire just north of Temple, Texas (70-ish miles from home for me). I sat in park on I-35 for about 30 minutes before they finally got the road cleared enough for traffic to start moving again. Not a disaster (for me), but not exactly the smooth sailing I’d hoped for.

After getting home and assessing the situation with the failed (though no fault of my wife’s) DIY action, we hit our favorite burger joint for dinner and then I spent a chunk of the evening unpacking and connecting with new friends on Google Plus. In short, it was a great Con experience. If you haven’t been able to go to this one, I highly recommend it.

Aftermath

In the few short days since the Con ended, there’s been much cool action. The “OSR All Star Band” (or whatever it winds up getting called) is already being discussed for an appearance at NTRPG Con in 2017. So I’m 99.44% likely to be back next year. Of note, the Con will be moving to a different hotel next year, in no small part due to wide and deep dissatisfaction with the on-site food. It’ll still be right by the DFW airport, though, so it will remain easy for you far-flung fliers to find.

I’m already pondering what games to run next year, too. I have to set aside an evening slot for the probable rock show, which cuts back on my gaming just a tad. But it’ll be worth it to melt some faces with rock & roll alongside some very cool folks.

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Help A (Mutant) Brother Out

In case you’ve missed this elsewhere in the nerdosphere, there’s a fundraiser going on for Ryan Denison’s family. Ryan is the coauthor of Mutant Future (along with Dan Proctor). Check it out here and kick in a few bucks if you can.

Dan is generously rewarding contributors with high quality games from Goblinoid Games, so if you still haven’t purchased Labyrinth Lord and it’s supplements/expansions, Mutant Future, or Starships & Spacemen 2e, now’s a chance to grab ’em while doing a little good in the process.

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Back From (North) Texas – The Short Version

I’m working on a longer version of this, but before any more time passes and my loyal readers (all three of you) start complaining, here’s the highlights from my trip to the North Texas RPG Con…

  • Frank Mentzer is one of the nicest people in the world
  • Frank runs a very loose and enjoyable game
  • “Story Time with Uncle Frank” is one of the best ways to spend five or so hours
  • NTRPG Con has very nice ladies who bring food and (non-alcoholic) drinks to the tables. Tip them, or Uncle Frank will yell at you. I didn’t need to be yelled at – I always tip and tip well – but Frank made sure no one failed to tip
  • Merle Rasmussen is yet another of the nicest people in the world
  • Merle is so low-key and unassuming that he probably really is a secret agent
  • I still don’t really know how Top Secret works, since we never wound up in combat thanks to exceptional planning and execution by my fellow players
  • The dealer room at NTRPG Con is the treasure trove of vintage stuff you’d expect
  • Except for all of the new stuff (Goodman Games, in particular, was delivering the nuevo content)
  • Matthew Goiffon (Super Number One Food Tower) is a name you DCC players should look out for – the kid is very creative
  • DCC is a great con game, especially funnel-stylee
  • Everyone I talked to loved Marc’s “level 10 funnel” DCC game. I wish I’d played in it, but then I wouldn’t have been able to talk with him about it on the drive up
  • DCC is a pretty good fit for Lankhmar
  • I can’t say much more than that since the game I was in was Judged by a rather hungover Doug Kovacs
  • Doug Kovacs may or may not be one of the nicest people in the world
  • Regardless, he’s an interesting and engaging GM
  • Getting to know a number of people I already casually played games with in Austin better at the con (Paul & Brenda Wolfe, most notably) was one of the absolute highlights of the weekend. They are both among the nicest people in the world
  • David Baity, the extra roommate, is also one of the nicest people in the world
  • DB’s safe word is “Pepperjack” – keep that in mind if you wind up rooming with him

As I say, a longer version of the story is coming. But for now, this will have to do. And yes, I’m sure I’ve left out key information and failed to acknowledge lots of other people as Nicest People In The World®. I’ll do my best to remedy that in the more detailed writeup.

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And It Doesn’t Look A Day Over 39…

So I hear today is the 40th anniversary of the first release of Dungeons & Dragons. Or as close to it as anyone can identify (and boy did they put in the effort on identifying!). Actually, I’ve known about this pretty much since Mr. Peterson made that post back in December. And I even meant to acknowledge the anniversary with something more meaningful than the ramblings you’re reading right now.

I really, really wanted to play some kind of anniversary celebration game, but a bunch of real life junk messing with my schedule (and psyche) pretty well ruined that ideal. Also, Sundays are historically bad for gaming in my little clan, since most of us have families and such that need to be tended to before heading back to work on Monday. So it really wasn’t in the cards to begin with. But still, I meant well. So maybe I’ll give ol’ D&D a belated birthday party a little further down the line.

In the meantime, here are links to D&D-related posts I’ve made over the course of this blog’s run. Consider them my way of saying “Who loves ya, babe?” to Pappy D&D…

There’s all kinds of other stuff floating around here, too, but it’s all “officially” for Labyrinth Lord or some other retroclone or another. So I’m not linking to it directly, because I don’t wanna. ‘Cos Sherlock is starting and I’m done writing.

Happy Birthday, D&D!

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Obsolete Simulations Roundup: DROIDS

Obsolete Simulations Roundup!

Background: 1982

Nineteen Eighty-Two was a watershed year for RPG releases. Among the noteworthy games that saw print that year were the Basic Roleplaying Worlds of Wonder box set, Bunnies & Burrows, Daredevils, GangBusters and Star Frontiers, the original FASA Star Trek RPG, and the nicely combined into one package Traveller as found in The Traveller Book. That’s a mighty fine vintage right there, and I’m proud to count a number of those gems in my collection to this day.

Ad for Droids from The Space Gamer #65

Ad for Droids from The Space Gamer #65

Not among the noteworthy releases, but still released in 1982 was a little game called Droids: A Cybernetic Role-Playing Game written by Neil Patrick Moore and published by Integral Games out of Arlington, Texas. I never could get my hands on this slim little book back in the day, despite seeing ads for it in Space Gamer (among other mags of the time). Oh, I tried to get it. I asked constantly at Lone Star Comics. I even begged my mom to drive me to some other store on the outskirts of Dallas who claimed to have a copy. When they didn’t, I gave them a few bucks to special order it, but it never materialized.

My impression of the game from the advertising was that it was set in a world where mankind had managed to destroy itself in a massive nuclear war that these machines had managed to survive (the physics of the electromagnetic pulse didn’t really register with my young brain). So here was the nightmare of every cold war kid made somehow palatable by the continuation of “life” on earth in the form of these sentient robots who were still out there trying to survive.

This impression held through the demo game I either played in at Origins ’84. My memories of the session are sketchy at best, but I think we were out in a desert somewhere and descending on a service depot to try to get more ammunition or something. I do know that the feeling I got from the game was akin to the feeling I got watching the video for Robert Plant’s Big Log – isolation, loneliness, and ennui:

Despite living in essentially the same city as the producers and having been in close proximity to the game at the big con, I still never managed to get a copy. Not long after that I dropped most of my RPG habit in the name of being a rock ‘n’ roll bassist and completely forgot about Droids altogether.

The Game In Hand: 2010

Nearly thirty years later, after having wandered my way into and out of RPGs as a hobby more than once (and still playing bass), my wife asked back-into-RPGs me what I wanted for my birthday. I had pretty much everything I needed or wanted in life, but there was something nagging at the back of my mind. Something about… robots? No, not robots. Some other word. Mechs? No. Just ‘bots? No. Droids! That was it. And it turned out that Noble Knight had a copy in their fabulous vaults of out of print games, so she ordered it for me. I really do love that woman.

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I don’t know what I was expecting, physically, but I was a little surprised to discover that the Droids book was a slim 80 page digest (5½” X 8½”). I guess it had loomed large enough in my memory that I was looking for a huge, dusty tome or something. But that’s definitely not what this game is. Physically it fits right in with the Traveller little black books, which is probably appropriate somehow.

The Game Itself

Yeah, yeah. You didn’t come here to read about my childhood or how cool my wife is, I know. You want to know something about this game you’ve (probably) never heard of. Well, let’s get to it, then.

Introduction

The game opens with a bit of background, explaining that man made droid and droid overthrew man because organic life is squishy and inferior. Hmm, that’s not what I’d pictured at all. Weird. Oh well, it’s an interesting concept. Somebody ought to make a movie where humanity is overthrown by its mechanical creations… Anyway, apparently the droids weren’t content to be rid of the humans. Nope, their own internecine wars raged on until “the machine wars left no victory, and threw the world into total anarchy with every droid left to fend for itself.” Mecha-Atlas shrugged, I guess.

After the history lesson, we’re advised to get our manipulating units on some notebook paper, graph paper, and “a pair of differently colored twenty-sided percentile dice,” the rolling of which is explained immediately. We’re also given a quick explanation of the metric system, complete with rough conversion values. That’s handy.

Droid Construction

With that bit of setup out of the way, it’s time to start building droids. To build a droid you need to know that you’ve got 20 Construction Points (CP). CO represent the cost of each unit that is used to build a droid. Apparently some units will be listed that are completely unaffordable and “must be sought out once play begins.” Now we have an idea of what droids consider treasure.

Each unit also has both a Power Consumption (PC) stat and number of Bulk Points (BP). PC ranges from 0 to 6 for most units, but can go quite high (topping out in the rules at 40 for the Omegatron/Dragon Ray laser). It’s worth noting that PC can be zero, but that just means there’s no appreciable draw from a power source, even though the unit must be connected to one. BP indicate a unit’s size and weight, with 1 BP representing approximately an area of 0.1 m³ and a mass of 12 kg.

Droids have brains, too. That’s where the droid’s “personality and decision making circuitry” reside. These are metal cubes 10 cm on a side which have effectively 0 BP. A brain must be attached to a power source, though they can survive for up to 24 hours on internal battery backup. Longer than that w/o power and it’s adios, droid. Droid brains may be located and removed on any droid which is under 10 BP in size. So if you blow a bunch of units off of a big droid, you can pick its brain…

Building a droid is pretty much an exercise in menu selection. Pick some transport units (wheels, legs, VTOL propellers, hydrofoils, helium balloons, tunneling drills, and so on) first, or else you’ll be stuck in one spot. Picks some manipulative units next so you can interact with the world. Choose some power units to provide the juice (power units have negative PC values rather than providing a budget of PC points, FYI).

Pick up a viewing unit or two (cameras, night scopes, etc.), some sensor units (sound sensors, radar and such), and communications units (light communicators are blinking rows of lights, voice communicators let you talk & include listening, radio transmitters let you pump up the volume, etc.) so you’re not Tommy. Be sure to snag some interfaces accessing data and modules for storing programs and data, too.

Once all of the above is handled, it’s time to talk weapons. Because, as you’ll recall, it’s every droid for itself and you’re going to need to resort to violence. See, as a droid you’re superior to those pesky humans who created you, but apparently they built their propensity for conflict into you. Or maybe they released a virus in the waning days of their existence that was meant to cause the droids to fight amongst themselves or something. Who knows? Anyway, weapons.

The armaments available to the discerning droid in whatever year this is include (but are not limited to) machine guns, gauss guns, cannon, rocket launchers, lasers (alpha, beta, gamma and the aforementioned omega ray varieties), ion and plasma cannons, and, of course, mines and flamethrowers and such. Just make sure you load up on the appropriate ammo, too. Happiness may be a warm gun, but and empty gun no bang bang, shoot shoot.

Of course, if you can have weapons the other droids probably have them, too. Thus, you’ll probably be interested in picking up some general purpose deflector screens or some armor to protect specific units on your droid. Screens protect a set value vs. either projectile or energy weapons. Armor is ablative and protects against either weapon category.

Now that you’re finished out your droi… But wait! There’s more. What kind of game would this be if it didn’t offer up a number of “Miscellaneous Units” to fill up whatever space you might have left on your droid? A terrible one, that’s what kind. So if by some chance you still have CP available (and have enough PC to spare) why not bolt on a spotlight? Or maybe an ECM unit? Or perhaps some waterproofing? Or maybe a power cord to let you transfer power to another willing droid? Ginsu knives are not on this list, but they should be.

Now that you’re actually done building your droid, the book encourages you to give it a name. And since “there are an infinite number of names ranging form random combinations of letters and numbers to various computer and industrial names” you really shouldn’t have a problem coming up with something. Helpful examples include CABLE, GR9, VIDEO III, and CRT.

We close out the droid creation chapter with 8 hints to help you with building your droid:

  • Have a manipulative unit. Without one you cannot effect repairs and will die. Have more than one, really, and armor them.
  • Have a viewing unit. Without one you cannot shoot, repair, or even flee. Make sure it’s armored.
  • Have ample power. Don’t expect to have full power at all times. Armor your power sources.
  • Have a communication unit that can be understood by the other droids in your party. No one likes the illiterate half-orc who doesn’t speak common, after all.
  • Don’t skimp on ammo. You need bullets to survive.
  • Expect your armor to be destroyed. Have plenty or prepare to scavenge.
  • Avoid being vulnerable at night. Don’t depend exclusively on solar cells and have some kind of night vision in the party.
  • Balance is everything. Avoid specialization that will cripple you if “you become detached from the group, expelled, or if an essential member becomes heavily damaged.” Good advice for any game that isn’t too focused on niche protection, really. Plus, if you’re too specialized and are expelled from the group, you’ll never survive long enough to make the rue the day they cast you out.

It might have been helpful if these had come before the big listing of units. But hey. At least they’re here at all. Seriously. This kind of this would be helpful in a lot of games that have you constructing characters from point pools. Especially back in the day, when 12 year old kids were just supposed to have a complete understanding of the game developer’s thought processes.

Movement

I’m not going to dwell on these nearly as much, because they’re not nearly as interesting as droid construction. The bottom line is that there are rules for movement, including speeds for the various propulsion units, percent chances for transport units to break down (hint, avoid swamps if you’re not airborne or waterproofed), and crash landings. It tough out there for a droid.

Combat

Combat in Droids takes place in six second rounds comprised of three phases: Initiative, Combat Movement, and Fire Resolution.

Initiative, which is rolled only once per combat, is determined by a d% roll plus modifiers for additional viewing units and sensors. And if you’re lucky enough to have exceeded an opponent’s initiative by 75 or more, you’ve achieved surprise in the first round and can’t be attacked by that opponent.

Combat Movement is about what one would expect, with adjustments to attack values (q.v.) depending on the mode and direction of movement.

Fire Resolution takes into account range and aiming. Then hit determination, hit location, and damage resolution are handled.

An attack has a percent chance to hit based on a table similar to BRP’s resistance table, where the Attack Value of the weapon is compared against the (total) Bulk Points, thus bigger targets are easier to hit. Certain weapon types can also be aimed, in which case you compare the AV vs. the total BP and the specific unit’s BP to get two numbers, both of which are the targets of a single roll. Beat the lower number and you’ve hit the specific unit. Miss that but beat the higher number and you’ve at least hit the enemy droid. It’s kinda like how the Martial Arts skill works in BRP.

Random hit location is determined by rolling against a table which tells you the BP of the unit hit. Yep, you determine that a unit with (rolls) 7 BP is hit. If there’s no unit with that number of BP, the damage is applied to the unit with the closest BP value. If two or more units have the determined BP, the victim gets to choose which unit was damaged.

The amount of damage done by a hit is determined by a d10 roll against a chart for the specific weapon. These charts give the actual damage value, which ranges from 1 all the way up to 48 for the dreaded Matter Disruptor.

Ramming and Falling are covered in this section as well, but time is short and this piece is long. So let’s agree not to worry about those for now.

Creation

The bulk of the remaining 25 pages of Droids focuses on referring the game (and yes, Referee is the official term, not Droid Master or CPU or something inane). Three sample NPC droids are provided (PEACE, a 25 CP sniper droid; MULTIPLEX, a 35 CP night scavenger; and MACRON, a 50 CP powerhouse), as are some nifty tables for rolling up random droids.

Some coverage is given to Robots, which “are machines that have a command module as their sole means of decision making. They cannot break away from this direction, as they have no brain of their own.” So basically mooks.

This section also introduces Experimental Units and MEga Units (aka magic items). These are both concepts that are more open to individual referee interpretation, though some guidelines are given.

We close out the Creation section with tidbits about organized droid societies, weather, encounter tables, a sketch of a sample adventure, and an example of play. There’s also an end note that suggests looking to science fiction books, movies and magazines for ideas and inspiration. And, at the end, the promise of “scenarios and additional books which may be used in conjunction with Droids to expand and supplement the game as a whole.” Alas, the world apparently had different plans.

Critical Reaction

I just wanted to note that there were (according to the RPGNet Game Index listing for Droids) two reviews from 1983. The Space Gamer #64 (“fails as an RPG”) and Different Worlds #31 (“If you like hack-and-slash … [or] need some robot design rules”). I’m not aware of any other reviews.

I get what these snippits are saying, even if I think they might be too harsh. As presented Droids is definitely pretty barebones. And it focuses very tightly on combat. “Character growth” basically boils down to adding modules scavenged from other sources (including your “kills”) to your droid, making you actually grow in the process. But still, the system is kinda neat and my own brain still dances little apocalyptic doomsday machines after the holocaust jitterbugs when I think about the setting (such as it is) that Droids delivers. One could take this core and make something truly unique out of it, I believe. So personally I wouldn’t call it a failure so much as a good start.

Availability: Scarce!

Droids: A Cybernetic Role-Playing Game is no easier to get your hands on today than it was when I was trying to snag a copy thirty years ago. NobleKnight is probably your best hope, and they haven’t had a copy in stock since 2010 (I’m pretty sure that was the copy I now hold in my hands). I’ve never seen it anywhere else, in print or PDF. But there have to be other copies out there somewhere.

All The Obsolete Simulations Roundup Posts

For your reading pleasure, consider checking out these other participants in the Obsolete Simulations Roundup:

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Creepy, Famous Monsters of Filmland, and More!

creepy #13A whole lot of Warren Publishing “not comics” (and therefore not subject to the old CCA Code) are available online at Archive.org. This includes a large run of Creepy, a bunch of Vampirella , a mess o’ Famous Monsters of Filmland, a handful of 1984, and a smattering of other nifty things like their Lord of the Rings special.

A lot of this stuff can serve as inspiration for whatever gaming you’re into these days, and the ads in these are gold. Dig in… if you dare.

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Ray Harryhausen, Rest In Peace

You’ve probably heard by now that special effects master Ray Harryhausen has passed away.

I think it’s safe to say that not a single image in my young gamer’s head wasn’t seriously informed by the ground-breaking stop-motion animation that Harryhausen gave us over the years. And though Hollywood has long moved on from its heavy reliance on this type of effect (more’s the pity), the world is a lesser place for his passing.

I hunted around YouTube and found this compilation of the master’s greatest hits. Enjoy it, and keep these images in your brain the next time you’re trying to picture a hydra, a cyclops, or an army of skeleton warriors bearing down upon your characters.

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Barbarians of Heavy Metal 14: Game Slate Panel 1…

BoHMScreensSplash

Just a quick update on the progress of BoHM, this time talking about the tablet interface for the Gameslate.

The interface is made up of multiple panels, accessed through a pull down menu bar (which can be seen at the top of the picture below). For the first, Kickstarter, release, we will be focusing on everything the player needs to play the game, so that means a Character Generation panel, an Action Panel, a Music Panel, a Gear Panel and a digital Rulebook reminiscent of the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, which can be pulled down and read at any time from any panel.

To illustrate, here is the first panel a player will use, the character generation panel, and a character that has been created using it – Nicodemus Bosch, a Ledite of House Capricorn (inspired by Jethro Tull, of course):

BoHMScreensChargen

Using this panel, one can completely create a new character, save it, delete it or search through the database for other characters created on this tablet (we’ll be looking into transferring them over Bluetooth later this year).

The Bio Panel is the first stop, as this is where you create a name for your character. the six buttons, from left to right are: Search, which allows you to use the next two buttons, left and right, to flip through the various characters stored in the database; two buttons to delete or add/save a character, represented by a ‘-‘ and ‘+’; and finally a Text button that pulls up the keyboard so you can name or rename your character. The small number to the right of the name is the ‘Level’ indicator. Basically, this keeps track of how advanced the character is over a starting one. This makes it easy to manage experience on sight.

The Attribute and Combat Adds panels are fixed, as the names of the stats are constant, and only allow the rank of the relevant Attribute or Combat Add to be adjusted up or down by the use of the adjoining dial. BoL players will notice that there is no panel for secondary attributes built off of these, like Life Blood (or Fight in the case of BoHM). This is intentional, as these are automatically generated from the ratings on these panels and will show up, and be manipulated on the Action Panel.

The Career and Instrument panels are three part: the top allows you to dial through the relevant careers, and by hitting the text button on the bottom right edge, even allows you to add custom ones. This is particularly important for instruments, which aside from the standard grouping of Axe, Bass, Percussion and Voice, can include a wide variety of other sonic devices, as Nicodemus shows with his preferences for Flutes, Keyboards and Mandolins.

The second part of these panels allows you to dial in a rank for said Career or Instrument and then add it with the down arrow button, to your skill list or, if you want to remove a career or instrument, take it away again. Very simple.

The third, bottommost panel simply shows you the careers you have chosen along with their appropriate ranks. If you end up with more than 4, the handy dial will let you scroll through them.

The final part of our character generation panel is the Style Dial. This large central construct determines three things for your character: their School of Rock, which is indicated by turning the metal Roctagon so that the character’s school is at the top; the character’s ranking in various styles, indicated by the number in the radiating Rank Indicators adjacent to each schools position on the interior Rocktagon; and the opposition school, at the bottom, which is the only place on the dial without a radiating Rank indicator.

Ranking various styles is done by turing the central selection dial so that the arrow is pointing towards the appropriate school and then using the ‘+’ and ‘-‘ buttons at the base to change the number in the indicator.

The controls are all designed to look good and prevent accidental mishandling, hence the use of dials for a large number of selection points. I like dials on a touchscreen because they require a three step process to use: touch – drag – release. Unlike a plain button, which is simply touch, this means it is harder to accidentally change something by a simple misplacement of the finger.

There are buttons of course, but in accordance with the way people hold tablets,  they are kept towards the center of the design so that any movement of the hand to access them will be largely deliberate (in theory, or course). This is also why the dial controls are mirrored on the left and right edges. Ease of use for the thumbs. And of course, mixing it up a bit helps to make the design more varied, hence the use of buttons for Style Ranks instead of Dials.

Once the character is created, all these numbers will be fed into the approriate spots on the  other panels. The only place to change them, however (except in temporary cases, as when using equipment) is on this panel. This avoids accidental changes to the character during play and also allows the information to be presented in a more compact manner on the other panels, which is hugely important from a mobile platform perspective.

This panel is being broken up and the graphics added to the underlying code this week, and I’m currently putting the finishing touches on the Action Panel and Splash Screen panel (the in-progress version of which I placed at the top of the page). Hopefully, the Gear and Music panels will be finished by the end of the month so that we can get everything the player needs, sans Titans, ready for beginning of May. The Titan screen will probably have to wait until we can figure out how to get the tablets to communicate through Android, which might be a post Kickstarter deal, but progress is apace and I’m very happy with how it is turning out…

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Barbarians of Heavy Metal 13: The Dedites…

At this point, I’ve finished with the rules for character creation and the use of music in the game and have started working on the vehicle and Titan rules. Another thing I’m doing as I go along is filling out the details on the various schools of rock.

Now, you may wonder why I haven’t finished that before moving on to another part of the rules-set and the reason is simple: basically there are a metric butt-tonne of ability lists to fill out. I have to define 11 levels for each Style’s Sonic Wzardry Effects, which means 88 separate Effects spread between 8 schools of rock.And then I also have to fill out the various Licks available to specific schools, and those add another 40 sub-effects that may or may not be based on the Sonic Wizardry Effects.

That takes time and you should never try to tackle a job like that all at once. Best to come back to it a bit at a time as you are inspired and in between working on all the other stuff that needs doing as well. Not only is it less maddening, but working on other rules can often inspire an idea that will grow the lists as you go while still maintaining forward momentum in other areas, and all while keeping the thematic and mechanical elements holistically connected. This is a much more effective use of time than simply staring at a screen and straining your brain for ideas to finish lists in one go while other bits of mechanics need finishing.

All that said, I have completed one of the schools and thought I’d post it up today to give folks a look at how a fleshed out section of the Rocktagon looks, mechanically speaking. There will be additional verbiage, thematic information and so on, added later as the book is finished, but for now, here are the rules for the Dedite School of Rock and their favored sonic style: Fire…

DEDITE

Characteristic Bonus: Fire +1

Special Career: Sonic Slayer

 

HARMONICS

Harmonic Number – 4

Domination: The current roll is pushed up one Level of Success.

Killing is My Business (and Business is Good): Double the total damage caused by the current roll OR ignore the target’s armor.

The Four Horsemen: The Dedite and up to 3 Band-Mates gain a Bonus Die on all actions related to Combat (including strategy and tactics) and intimidation for the rest of the Scene.

 

DISCORDS

Discord Number – 8

RagNaRok: For the rest of this scene, any benefit the Dedite gains from striking a Harmonic is also given to one of their enemies for their next roll.

War Nerve: If the Dedite is in combat when this Discord is struck, the pressures of combat trips their bloodlust into overdrive and they attack with nor regard to their own safety. Their Defend Score is reduced to -2 for the rest of the Scene.

Ride The Lightning: The Dedite pours too much power into their instrument and reaps a vicious energy backlash from the feedback. If using a Sonic Weapon with the Safeties Off, the Dedite takes D6+3 damage.

 

LICKS

Axe – Rapid Fire: The guitarist may use their sonic amplifier to shoot a hail of flaming bolts at the enemy. This gives them a Rapid Fire rating equal to their Rank in Dedite.

Bass – The Fallen Angel: When used by the Frontman to create the Heat Shield Effect, it will last a number of Rounds equal to 3x the Decay rating after the bassist ceases to maintain it.

Percussion – Hot and Heavy: When used by the Frontman, any Sonic wizardry Effects gain one free bump in Intensity, Damage or Area of Effect.

Vocal – Tears of Fire: When used by the Frontman to create The Sky is On Fire Effect, tiny drops of flame start to rain down from the sky, affecting a number of Titan Hexes equal to the singer’s Dedite Rank. Everything within those hexes takes a hit from an Intensity 1 flame each turn. Cover may negate this effect, so long as the cover itself doesn’t catch on fire…

Other – All Guns Blazing: When using the Fire of Unknown Origin Effect, all ballistic weapons within D6 Personal Hexes of the player gain a +1 flame damage and all Flame weapons roll a Bonus Die for damage.

 

FIRE EFFECTS

Fire in BoHM is measured in Area of Effect and Intensity (see pg.xx). Enhancing Fire Effects doubles the Radius and adds +1 to the Intensity or Damage for each Rank added to the Effect.

0 – Turn Up the Heat

The headbanger can raise the surrounding temperature (a number of Personal Hexes equal to the roll total) to an extremely uncomfortable level, enough to melt ice quickly and cause extreme dehydration and fatigue (see pg.xx), but not enough to boil liquids or to start fires.

1 – Flames Rising

The headbanger can increase the power of existing flame. Each successful use of this Effect doubles the Area of Effect or Intensity of the fire.

2 – Fight Fire with Fire

The previous level of Fire Mastery can only grow or maintain flames. At Rank 2, the heabanger learns to reduce or eliminate them. They may reduce any fire in Intensity or Area of Effect by 1 using this Effect.

3 – Bat Out of Hell

The headbanger can now exert fine control over existing flames, shaping them into animated avatars of flame that move and dance around at their whim as long as they continue to maintain the Effect. The flames may move a number of Personal Hexes per Round equal to the headbanger’s base Dedite Style Rating.

4 – Fire of Unknown Origin

The player may now ignite flammable materials spontaneously, creating a fire of Intensity 1 with a Radius of 1 Personal Hex. The fire will burn as long as it has fuel or for D6 x Decay in Rounds after the player has ceased maintaining it.

If used to light a close combat weapon on fire, add a damage modifier to any attacks using it equal to the Intensity of the flame. You can also do this with feet and fists, but combustible weapons and body parts will take damage every round this Effect is in action. In these cases it’s best to combine it with Hellion, below.

5 -Hellion

The headbanger hardens a single target’s resistance to flame, lowering the Intensity of any fire attacks by 1 for damage purposes. This Effect lasts for D6 x Decay in Rounds after the player stops maintaining it.

6 – Heat Shield

A wall of pure unadulterated heat rises up to melt and diffuse incoming attacks. This Effect will protect one Personal Hex along one side from attacks. this provides a +6 Cover bonus to DEF against all personal attacks that pass through the shielded hexside.

7 – Great Balls of Fire

The headbanger can use the Sonic Amplifier on their instrument to shoot balls of exploding flame at their enemies.

The player fires a number of balls equal to the their Ranks in Dedite, each of which may be aimed at a separate target hex. Each ball has a range in Personal Hexes equal to the player’s Ranks in Dedite x5 and causes D6+5 damage to everything in the target Hex. Individual victims may reduce the damage they suffer by their Defense (including cover).

8 – Firehouse

This Effect can be used to set an entire Titan Hex aflame with temperatures hot enough to melt iron. Just being in the area causes 2D6+6 damage to unprotected living creatures each round.

Any enclosed vehicle that traverses the terrain, like a tank or Titan, gains D6 points of Heat.

9 – Quest for Fire

A giant pillar of flame erupts from a Personal Hex of the player’s choice and shoots 1km up into the night sky. This acts as a beacon and all who see it must pass a Saavy + Nazarite or Ledite roll to avoid being drawn towards it by a long forgotten  primal attraction to flame.

Those drawn in this manner will immediately break free of the spell once they are within 10 Personal Hexes of the Effect, or if they are attacked before they get that far.

10 –  Heavy Metal Fire

The band sets an entire Titan Hex on fire and the flames created are hot enough to melt the armor of Titans and pretty much vaporize any living being. Titans and vehicles passing through this hex takes D6 hits to each location and 2D6 Heat. Titans and vehicles in the surrounding hexes take D6 Heat.

11 – The Sky is on Fire

The band sets a thin layer of atmosphere above the battlefield, an entire Aerospace Hex worth, on fire. This blocks visibility to the ground and forces and vehicles in that hex or passing through it immediately take D6 hits to each location. Any ordinance travelling through the flame is automatically detonated.

Temperatures under this umbrella of flame soar, causing the same effects as Turn Up the Heat above, and it is impossible to see through it from above or below. Titans and other vehicles gain 1 additional point of heat each turn they are in the hex.

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