Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Magic Gems

I have been playing Torchlight 2 and I really like all the socketed items and the way those work. To that end I have been playing around with the following magic item idea for my D&D game.

Magic Gems

Magic Gems attach to magic weapons and armor. Only 1 gem can attach to any given item. Effects of multiple weapon gems and multiple armor gems do not stack. Once a gem is attached it cannot be removed without destroying the item.

Orange Gem - Exploding Fire

Weapon - Weapon does 2d6 fire damage on a successful hit. If either fire damage die rolls a 6 roll another d6 and add this to the total. If this die rolls a 6 add another die. Continue this until no die rolls a 6.

Armor - Resist fire. Take 1/2 damage from magical fire based attacks. If save for half is allowed damage is reduced to 0 with a successful save. Also, if enemies roll a 1 on their to hit roll when attacking you, the attacker takes fire damage as shown for weapon above.

Yellow Gem - Chain Lightning

Weapon - Weapon does 3d6 lightning to primary target on a successful hit. The lightning then arcs to the closest additional enemy target (if one exists) and does 2d6 damage to that target, and finally arcs again for 1d6 lightning damage to a third and final enemy target if one is available.

Armor - Resist lightning. Take 1/2 damage from magical lightning based attacks. If save for half is allowed damage is reduced to 0 with a successful save. Also, if enemies roll a 1 on their to hit roll when attacking you, the attacker takes lightning damage as shown for weapon above.

Blue Gem - Freezing Ice

Weapon - Weapon does 2d6 ice damage on a successful hit. Further if the 2d6 damage roll is "doubles" the target is frozen solid until the beginning of your next turn. A frozen target has their Armor Class reduced by -5 and all attacks on a frozen target inflict double damage. If a frozen target is reduced to 0 HP while frozen they shatter doing 2d6 damage to everything within 5 feet of the exploding corpse.

Armor - Resist ice/cold. Take 1/2 damage from magical ice/cold based attacks. If save for half is allowed damage is reduced to 0 with a successful save. Also, if enemies roll a 1 on their to hit roll when attacking you, the attacker takes ice/cold damage as shown for weapon above.

Red Gem - Blood Stone

Weapon - Weapon does 1d6 vampiric damage. You heal a like amount.

Armor - Regeneration. Regain 1 HP every minute.

White Gem - Holy Pearl

Weapon - Weapon does 2d6 holy damage on a successful hit or 1d6 holy damage on a miss. No damage is done if the unadjusted roll to hit is a 1.

Armor - Resurrection. If you die, you are resurrected instantly to full hit-points. This destroys the Holy Pearl which shatters and cannot be used again.

Black Gem - Shadow Onyx

Weapon - Shadow Weapon. Grants proficiency of the weapon for anyone with a Dexterity of 13 or greater. Makes the weapon a finesse weapon. Double the characters Dexterity bonus is applied to attack and damage rolls with the weapon.

Armor - Shadow Armor. Grants proficiency of the armor for anyone with a Dexterity of 13 or greater. Makes the armor light class armor. Double the characters Dexterity bonus is applied to Armor Class while wearing the armor.

Buying Magic Gems

There is a fair (30%) chance that a magic shop has Magic Gems for sale ... Roll d20.

01-14 = 0 gems available
15-17 = 1 gem available
18-19 = 2 gems available
20 = 3 gems available

Type of Gem found ... Roll d12.

1-3 = Exploding Fire (orange) 1000 GP
4-6 = Chain Lightning (yellow) 1000 GP
7-9 = Freezing Ice (blue) 1000 GP
10 = Blood Stone (red) 5000 GP
11 = Holy Pearl (white) 5000 GP
12 = Shadow Onyx (black) 5000 GP

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Friday, November 09, 2012

Dave Bezio's X-plorers

Next in my series of reviews in the, "Great things come in small packages!" category is: X-plorers by Dave Bezio.

I own the PDF and print versions of X-plorers and let me start by saying, if you own a free version of the game, it's well worth your money to upgrade. This book is gorgeous! Art, layout, editing, everything in the Brave Halfling Publishing edition of this game is excellent and professional. X-plorers' production values are second to none. It scores a perfect 5 out of 5 for style and presentation. And at a petite 39 pages, X-plorers is the epitome of quality over quantity. This is how every RPG should be done.

X-plorers is a science fiction themed space exploration RPG. The game feels like a good balance of science fantasy and space opera and I think it could handle anything from Star Trek to Firefly to Starship Troopers to Star Wars inspired star-faring adventure pretty well.

Characters are defined through four primary attributes that range from 3 to 18 and familiar terms like initiative, armor class, saving throws, and hit points, all work as you'd expect. The four base character classes are good fits for the genre and the skill system looks to be perfect for the OSR feel the game is shooting for.

Basically skills work like old school saving throws. You have target numbers based upon your character class. As you level up the target numbers go down making the skill checks easier to hit. Clean, simple, very old school. It makes the game easy to play, easy to maintain. It's the kind of thing I want at my gaming table.

The rules include space ship and world design, space combat, psionic powers, alien creature and robot design, everything you'd want to see in a scifi RPG with the possible exception of cyber-punk style trimmings, but I feel like that's really a separate genre anyway.

The next time I want to run a SciFi RPG, I will definitely turn to X-plorers. It can easily handle anything a more complex game like Traveller can do with a fraction of the book keeping.

Get X-plorers HERE ... It's awesome!



- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Friday, November 02, 2012

The Future is Now

Tablets are changing the way we use, think of and experience computers. I think about my iPad and the computer displays on Star Trek and it makes me realize that the future is now.

This post will be a bit of a departure for me. I have mentioned my passion for my iPad and today's release of the iPad mini has me surfing the web reading about tablets ... So, I decided to share links to some information that I found interesting. If you have an interest in tablets ... Take a look!

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Converting D&D Armor Class to Retro Phaze Defense

If you want to use an OSR compatible supplement with Retro Phaze you will need to do some converting to make things work.

The key score you will need to convert is Armor Class.

For the most part, the quick and dirty rule for converting D&D Ascending Armor Class (higher is better) to Retro Phaze Defense is: Armor Class divided by two, round fractions up, and then add one to the result.

This is a pretty quick and easy formula for the Ref on the go, but it doesn't always work when comparing AC to actual RP armor values, so the graphic above includes a table with the true conversion values for when you need to be more accurate.

If you haven't checked Retro Phaze out yet, give it a look. It's awesome!



- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Friday, October 19, 2012

I made this character sheet for use with Retro Phaze!

I created this character sheet for Retro Phaze. I would love to have some feedback on it. It's the first time I've done anything like this with my iPad. Let me know what you think, and I am open to suggestions for changes, additions, improvements!



- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Retro Phaze RPG Review

A few months ago I reviewed "The Supercrew" by Tobias Radesäter. I began that review by saying: I believe that good things come in small packages. Along those same lines, the latest game to grab my attention is another example of gaming greatness packaged in only a handful of pages. Let's call this the second in a series of my "Great Games in Small Packages" reviews.

Retro Phaze by John Higgins is an old-school game with a unique flavor that I believe worthy of special mention and more than a little praise. But I very nearly gave it a miss, and that would have been a tragedy.

The cover of Retro Phaze boasts: "Eight-Bit Fantasy Role-Playing" which put me in mind of the games, "Super Console" and "8-Bit Dungeon" which certainly have their charms, but which I feel cater to a very focused and select audience and are limited in scope by the nature of their designs.

My brain immediately relegated "Retro-Phaze" to this same category and but for the fact that Lulu has the PDF version of the game available for free, things might have ended there. But, as the PDF was freely available and I had been browsing around for something to read, I went ahead and gave Retro Phaze a look.

Forget the cover and the "Eight-Bit Fantasy" tag-line for a moment. What struck me about RP as I began flipping through its pages is that it is a very complete and well reasoned OSR Game. Not a clone, but an original interpretation of the first RPG, and a good one ... a very good one.

RP's source of inspiration does not limit it, it elevates it. I liken Retro Phaze to Lamentations of the Flame Princess. LotFP makes changes to the first RPG in order to streamline clarify and re-imagine the system into the best that it can be. The changes that are made keep its setting, "weird fantasy" in mind while staying true to the playability and spirit of the original rules set.

Retro Phaze does the same: new ideas, streamlined rules, and a complete package that stays true to the "old school" while serving its setting ... in this case, not "weird fantasy" but classic JRPG's like Final Fantasy and Dragon Warrior.

Probably the biggest departure in RP from the original rules is an adaptation of the entire system from d20 to the d6. Some may balk at this change, but I was frankly amazed at the elegance with which it is accomplished. I have seen other house-rules that "convert" d20 systems to d6 ... But none of them are as clean and as natural as what I see here. I am a huge fan of the d6, and Retro Phaze proves that you can do OSR just fine without the d20.

Another big change is that Retro Phaze uses a set of four base attributes combining the effects of Strength and Constitution, keeping only Strength. And merging Wisdom and Charisma into a new attribute: Willpower. I like this consolidation as it makes these attributes more important. This change works well in combination with the new die mechanic and it shows that RP isn't tied to legacy mechanics just for the sake of them. Everything serves the system.

There are four races and four classes, culled from the old-school but sprinkled with JRPG flavor. There's the races of Man, Elf, Dwarf and Hob and the classes of Fighter, Monk, Wizard and Rogue. These can be chosen in any combination and they should feel familiar to any old-school player.

The classes do a few new things and I should mention that the Rogue is not a thief class, but rather a ranged combat specialist. RP does have a simple but very functional skill system that would enable someone so inclined to shape their Rogue into a Thief class easily if that's what they wanted.

Also new is optional 'upgrades' at 10th level that allow a Fighter to become a Paladin or a Rogue to become a Ranger. This diversity is a nice addition; it adds a new richness but feels both very old-school and very JRPG at the same time.

The game includes spell and monster lists taken from the game's JRPG inspirations. These are simple and concise. I especially liked the explanations for 'range' and 'spread' that help to define the scope of effect for every spell. All descriptions are minimized reducing the number of pages the game needs to do this job substantially in the process. There are a healthy number of spells and creatures and the game doesn't feel "lite" or incomplete in any way.

The game reminds me a bit of Dungeonslayers (3.5 ver.) in the way it manages to create a complete RPG package as concisely as possible. But, I find Retro Phaze's rules and mechanics to be more accessible, more familiar and more friendly than Dungeonslayers.

Game play itself is pure old-school. RP doesn't try to emulate the game play of an 8-bit RPG the way that Super Console does, and this is a blessing. When playing one of the classic console JRPG's one might think, "It would be so cool to play this as a tabletop adventure ..." that's what RP does.

To me games like Super Console that try to emulate the mechanics of a console's gameplay at the tabletop won't give you that. They work more in the reverse. If you are running your OSR group through an old-school dungeon crawl and you find yourself thinking, "This would make a cool console game ..." that, is what Super Console does. If that's what you want, cool. But, if you want to incorporate all the best tropes of the classic JRPG into your OSR game, then Retro Phaze was made for you.

In the last pages there are a generous number of example magic items and some examples of campaigns and styles of play inspired by early console RPG 's. There's even mention of using RP for a campaign set among the stars, and I could see RP working for that very well.

If you just want a very good, very clean, very complete old-school experience that uses a d6 and does everything that the best that the OSR can do, and does it in only 32 pages, Retro Phaze is for you. It's certainly for me, and since you can download the PDF for free from Lulu, what's holding you up? Give Retro Phaze a look.

On the negative side, RP is not what I would call a very pretty book. The art that has been 'pixelated' to create that 8-bit feel adds nothing very useful to the game's presentation. And as I said, I almost passed over the game all together, based strictly on "first impressions." I am very happy that I didn't. This is compounded by the fact that I didn't find any reviews for Retro Phaze with a cursory Google search. It seems that Retro Phaze has been sadly overlooked.

It would be nice if Retro Phaze could get a facelift. I would lose the "8-Bit" graphics for ones that emphasize the "J" in the JRPG aspects of those same inspirations, using anime style graphics to enforce the same feel. This change in presentation could improve Retro Phaze's visibility without changing a word of its text. And improved visibility for Retro Phaze would make me very happy, because quite frankly, it's awesome!

OSR Friendly original game mechanics.
Uses D6 exclusively for greater accessibility.
Spells, Monsters, Magic Items, Races, Classes, Campaign Settings.
OSR Compatible Skill System!
Handles it's premise (JRPG Console Games) well.
Flexible enough for any OSR Fantasy style campaign.
Complete RPG in only 32 pages!!

No Character Sheet or Sample Adventure.
Presentation would benefit from a facelift.

Nothing Else ... Really!
Retro Phaze is just about perfect!

PS - I bought a print on demand copy of Retro Phaze. If you like what you see, encourage the game's author by doing the same.


Jeff Moore

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Saturday, October 06, 2012

Love my Final Fantasy!

My iPad is my console of choice. I like the portability and not being tied to (or tying up) the TV. I had a GameBoy Advance SP which I liked, but it's so tiny that some of the joy of the gaming experience is diminished just because the visual display is so small. I don't feel that way about my iPad. I don't feel like I am missing anything. And as more and more games are finding their way to this platform it really is becoming a better investment everyday. I write on it, email on it, text on it, watch TV on it, surf the web on it, play on it, read comics on it ... It's the most useful toy I have ever owned.

One of the things killing the iPad and Android Tablets as gaming platforms is the incredibly low price point set because of the way these games have evolved as cell-phone "novelties." The average iPad/Phone game probably sells for less than $5.00. Well, at that price you have to sell a lot of units to make back your development costs, especially on a 40+ hour epic scale JRPG like Final Fantasy. This has to impact the final quality of games available, and it also effects the kind of games that are produced.

SquareEnix has been experimenting with a pricing model that I really like, with Final Fantasy Dimensions and also Final Fantasy IV: The After Years. They sell the game in linear "chapters" to lessen the sting of the overall package. With "After Years," I bought the first chapter as downloadable Wiiware for about $5.00. I remember I was really excited about it and I wrote something about it in my blog. But, that wore thin for whatever reason after a few days, and I never finished the first chapter. With Final Fantasy Dimensions the first chapter (actually the prologue) was free. Now it was admittedly short, but it gave me enough of a "taste" for the game to make me realize that I was exactly the kind of old school RPG gamer audience that they were shooting for, and I wanted to see more. I bought Chapter 1 for $2.99 and played it through to the end. It was also pretty short, but I spend more than $2.99 on a hamburger and the game lasted a damn site longer than one of those.

The thing is, people reviewing the game in the App store are slamming it for it's $30+ final price tag (for all chapters) and I find that extremely disheartening. The tendency is to compare the game to cheaper games in the App store as if to say, cheaper is better. This is nonsense. If you have a paper airplane and a gas powered model plane, is the the paper airplane a better toy because it's cheaper? Games in the App store are going to have to pull down prices comparable to other gaming platforms if they are to compete with other gaming platforms in quality and content. SquareEnix is pushing the market in this direction and I for one applaud their efforts.

I spent $5.00 on "After Years" and only played for a few hours before deciding that it wasn't a game that I was enjoying. I spent $50.00 on Xenoblade Chronicles and only played for a few hours before deciding that it wasn't a game that I was enjoying. I played and enjoyed Final Fantasy Dimensions for free for a few hours. I decided that it was a game that I was enjoying and I paid $2.99 to play for a few more hours. Still having fun, I have dipped into my pocket again to buy Chapter 2. This one is $9.99 and promises to be three times longer than the previous chapters. That's cool. I have enjoyed myself so far.

I don't play many games through to completion. I get distracted or bored, or the game gets too hard or frustrating, or I just decide I don't like it. Whatever the reason, I start a lot of games, but finish very few. The pay-per-chapter model is brilliant. I only pay as long, and as much, as I play. If I manage to make it all the way through to the end of Final Fantasy Dimensions I will have paid, $33 for a game that I played for many hours from beginning to end. If I lose interest or get distracted before completing this chapter, I will have paid $13 for what has already amounted to several hours of enjoyment. That's a bargain compared to the $50 investment made in Xenoblade Chronicles that sits unplayed on my shelf after only a few hours.

Uh, I've been preaching much more than I planned to ... Sorry about that. Anyway, I am liking Final Fantasy Dimensions and hope to see more like it on my iPad in the near future.

Talk to you soon.


- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Friday, September 28, 2012

House Rules for Labyrinth Lord

The Totally Random Fantasy Character Builder in 13 steps!
Alternative character creation for use with Labyrinth Lord or other old-school games.

(Note: although these tables make a clear distinction between Race and Class, these characters are meant to be played with the original Labyrinth Lord Rules (not the Advanced Rules Companion.) Each character is to be defined by the new Racial Abilities provided here and their HUMAN class of Fighter, Cleric, Magic-User or Thief.)

[ 1 ] Gender (players can choose to play their own gender or roll ... )

Player choice or roll 1d12:
1-8: The character is male.
9-12: The character is female.

[ 2 ] Race

If MALE roll 1d12:
1-5: The character is of the Human race.
6-7: The character is of the Elf race.
8-11: The character is of the Dwarf race.
12: The character is of the Gnome race.

If FEMALE roll 1d12:
1-4: The character is of the Human race.
5-9: The character is of the Elf race.
10: The character is of the Dwarf race.
11-12: The character is of the Gnome race.

[ 3 ] Starting Age

Human starting age: 13 + 2d4 years.
(15 – 21 with 18 the average. A Human will generally live to be 84 + 4d4 years.)

Gnome starting age: 13 + 2d8 years.
(15 – 29 with 22 the average. A Gnome will generally live to be 118 + 4d8 years.)

Dwarf starting age: 13 + 2d12 years.
(15 – 37 with 26 the average. A Dwarf will generally live to be 202 + 4d12 years.)

Elf starting age: 13 + 2d20 years.
(15 – 53 with 34 the average. An Elf will generally live to be 420 + 4d20 years.)

[ 4 ] Height

Human male height: 58 + 2d10 inches.
(60 – 78 with 69 inches average.)

Human female or Elf (any) height: 52 + 2d8 inches.
(54 – 68 with 61 inches average.)

Dwarf male height: 46 + 2d6 inches.
(48 – 58 with 53 inches average.)

Dwarf female or Gnome (any) height: 40 + 2d4 inches.
(42 – 48 with 45 inches average.)

[ 5 ] Build

Human male build: roll 1d10.
1-2: The character is of slight build.
3-8: The character is of proportionate build.
9-10: The character is of stocky build.

Human female or Elf (any) or Gnome (any) build: 1d10.
1-6: The character is of slight build.
7-9: The character is of proportionate build.
10: The character is of stocky build.

Dwarf male build: roll 1d10.
1: The character is of slight build.
2-4: The character is of proportionate build.
5-10: The character is of stocky build.

Dwarf female build: roll 1d10.
1: The character is of slight build.
2-7: The character is of proportionate build.
8-10: The character is of stocky build.

[ 6 ] Hair Color

Human hair color: roll 1d20.
1-2: Platinum
3-5: Blonde
6-9: Brown
10-11: Black
12-15: Auburn
16-18: Strawberry Blonde
19-20: Red

Elf hair color: roll 1d12.
1-4: Jet Black
5-8: Stark White
9-11: Metallic Silver
12: Metallic Gold

Dwarf hair color: roll 1d12.
1-4: Red
5-8: Black
9-11: Brown
12: Blonde

Gnome hair color: roll 1d12.
1-3: Pink
4-6: Green
7-9: Purple
10-12: Blue

[ 7 ] Eye Color

Human eye color: roll 1d12.
1-3: Brown
4-6: Blue
7-9: Grey
10-11: Hazel
12: Green

Elf eye color: roll 1d12.
1-4: Aqua Blue
5-8: Forest Green
9-11: Violet Purple
12: Metallic Silver

Dwarf eye color: roll 1d12.
1-7: Dark Brown
8-11: Light Brown
12: Blue

Gnome eye color: roll 1d12.
1-5: Yellow
6-10: Orange
11: Red
12: Pink

[ 8 ] Racial Abilities

Human Ability: roll 1d6.
Humans are a seafaring race of island kingdoms and coastal cities. They are envoys and diplomats, trading with all races. Their element is water.

1-2: Fellowship - your character generally gets a friendly response from strangers, a neutral response from those who might otherwise be hostile, and those inclined to be friendly will go out of their way to help you. Once per game you can request a favor from an NPC that they will grant (subject to a saving throw at the Labyrinth Lord's discretion.) Alternately, you can invent a friendly NPC on the spot, or a past history with an existing NPC, who knows your character as a friend or love interest. (Subject to LL approval.)

3-4: Swashbuckler - regardless of their Class your character can fight with a longsword (or short sword) in one hand and a dagger in the other, gaining two melee attacks each round. (If you don't have them, add a short sword and a dagger to your starting equipment.)

5-6: Bard - Your character can sing and or play an instrument to almost magical effect. If you spend 2 consecutive rounds in a combat singing or playing, all allies gain a + 1 morale bonus to all die rolls for the duration of the combat. (Add a musical instrument to your starting equipment).

Dwarf Ability: roll 1d6.
Dwarves live under the mountains and harness the power of the molten earth. They forge weapons and armor of legendary quality. Their element is fire.

1-2: Battle Hardened - your character uses Hit Dice that are one die-type better than that indicated by their Class when rolling hit-points. (Fighter: d12, Cleric: d10, Magic-User: d6, Thief: d8.)

3-4: Fire Born - Your character is immune to all fire based damage. You can breath fire once a day that does damage equal to your current hit-points.

5-6: Berserker - Your character is blinded by blood lust flying into an uncontrollable Berserk Rage. Check for rage the first time your character takes damage in a combat. Your character Rages on a 2 in 6 chance. A Berserk Dwarf has a +3 bonus to melee attack and damage rolls. Alternately, if your character is a Magic-User they can cast a mini-fireball (automatic hit on one target for 1d4 + half your level rounded up in damage) each round for the duration of the combat. At the end of the combat there is a 2 in 6 chance that the Dwarf will continue in their rage attacking friendly targets for 1d3 rounds before calming down.

Elf Ability: roll 1d6.
Elves live in the forests building cities in the tree tops. They have a close affinity with nature and are competent users of both magic and weapons. Their element is earth.

1-2: Animal Companion - Your character has an animal companion like a wolf or similar medium sized natural beast with the following stats -- Hit-Dice: 1d6 x your character's level, Attack: bite for 1d6 + your character's level. The beast has a magical tie to your character and makes saving throws as your character. Also, the beast's spirit is part of this bond and your animal companion cannot die as long as your character lives. Further, any magic that would return your character to life will also revive your animal companion.

3-4: Spell Sword - If your character is not a Magic-User they are still able to prepare and use Magic-User spells as if they were a Magic-User of one-third your current class level +1 (round down.) So, at 3rd level you could cast as a 2nd level Magic-User; at 6th level you could cast as a 3rd level Magic-User; at 9th level you could cast as a 4th level Magic-User ... etc. (Add a Spell Book to your starting equipment). If your character is a Magic-User, you use 1d6 for Hit-Points and can equip weapons and armor as if your character were a fighter. (Take Chainmail Armor and Longsword in place of Robes and Staff in your starting equipment.)

5-6: Archer - regardless of their Class, your character is proficient with both Longbow and Short Bow. When using these weapons your character gains 2 attacks each round. When using a Longbow your character can add their Strength modifier to their damage. (If you don't have one, add a Short Bow to your starting equipment.)

Gnome Ability: roll 1d6.
Gnomes live high in the mountains in tall towers with moving walkways and clockwork elevators. They are master inventors and have built ships that can sail the skies. Their element is air.

1-2: Tinker - Your character can build and repair most anything. They carry a variety of tools, parts, and gizmos on their person and almost always have the right tool for the job. Although most of these contraptions are cobbled together and good for only one application before they fall apart.

3-4: Pilot - Your character knows how to control Gnomish Airships and as such has been permanently grafted with a set of clockwork mechanical wings. Your character can fly.

5-6: Clockwork - Your character isn't actually a flesh and blood Gnome at all but is a clockwork construct. As such, your character does not benefit from healing magic, but your automated repair processes allow you to regenerate 1 HP per minute as long as you have not been irreparably damaged (-10 HP.) You are immune to poison and do not need air, food, or water to survive, but you suffer double damage from electricity.

[ 9 ] Character Class

Human: roll 1d12.
1-4: Fighter
5-7: Cleric
8-9: Magic User
10-12: Thief

Elf: roll 1d12.
1-4: Fighter
5: Cleric
6-10: Magic User
11-12: Thief

Dwarf: roll 1d12.
1-5: Fighter
6-9: Cleric
10: Magic User
11-12: Thief

Gnome: roll 1d12.
1: Fighter
2-3: Cleric
4-7: Magic User
8-12: Thief

[ 10 ] Ability Scores

Strength: Roll 2d6 dropping the lower die; add 12 to the result.
Dexterity: Roll 3d6 dropping the lowest die; add 6 to the result.
Constitution: Roll 1d6; add 12 to the result.
Intelligence: Roll 3d6.
Wisdom: Roll 4d6 dropping the lowest die.
Charisma: Roll 2d6; add 6 to the result.

Cleric: roll 1d6.
Strength: Roll 2d6; add 6 to the result.
Dexterity: Roll 4d6 dropping the lowest die.
Constitution: Roll 3d6 dropping the lowest die; add 6 to the result.
Intelligence: Roll 3d6.
Wisdom: Roll 2d6 dropping the lower die; add 12 to the result.
Charisma: Roll 1d6; add 12 to the result.

Magic-User: roll 1d6.
Strength: Roll 3d6.
Dexterity: Roll 3d6 dropping the lowest die; add 6 to the result.
Constitution: Roll 2d6; add 6 to the result.
Intelligence: Roll 2d6 dropping the lower die; add 12 to the result.
Wisdom: Roll 1d6; add 12 to the result.
Charisma: Roll 4d6 dropping the lowest die.

Thief: roll 1d6.
Strength: Roll 3d6 dropping the lowest die; add 6 to the result.
Dexterity: Roll 2d6 dropping the lower die; add 12 to the result.
Constitution: Roll 2d6; add 6 to the result.
Intelligence: Roll 3d6.
Wisdom: Roll 4d6 dropping the lowest die.
Charisma: Roll 1d6; add 12 to the result.

[ 11 ] Hit Points

At 1st Level gain the MAX HP for your HD, but use the Advanced Rules for HD, so:
Fighter: 10 HP + Constitution Modifier (d10 Hit Dice)
Cleric: 8 HP + Constitution Modifier (d8 Hit Dice)
Magic-User: 4 HP + Constitution Modifier (d4 Hit Dice)
Thief: 6 HP + Constitution Modifier (d6 Hit Dice)

[ 12 ] Equipment

Characters start with: sturdy clothes, a backpack, a bedroll, a tinderbox, a mess kit, a wine skin, 10 days rations, 50 feet of rope, 10 torches, and 5d20 gold.

In addition:
Fighters have: Chainmail Armor (AC 5), a Longsword (1d8 Dmg), a Dagger (1d4 Dmg), a Short Bow (1d6 Dmg), and a quiver with 20 arrows.

Clerics have: Scalemail Armor (AC 6), a Mace (1d6 Dmg), a Shield (-1 AC), and a silver holy symbol.

Magic-Users have: mage robes with many pockets of spell components, a gnarled staff (2-handed, 1d6 Dmg), a Dagger (1d4 Dmg), a Sling & Stones (1d4 Dmg), a Spellbook, parchments, pens and ink.

Thieves have: Studded Leather (AC 7), a Short Sword (1d6 Dmg), a Dagger (1d4 Dmg), a Short Bow (1d6 Dmg), a quiver with 20 arrows and a set of thieves tools.

[ 13 ] Alignment

I never liked the Alignment system of: good / evil / law / chaos / neutrality, as a guide for roleplay although I recognize its value in the Fantasy Magic system. To that end I am substituting an alignment system based upon the four elements of earth, air, fire, and water. Your race determines how your character is aligned. In practice, a spell that protects against fire, for example, might prevent or reduce fire based damage. But, a spell that protects against the ALIGNMENT of Fire would protect against fire aligned characters and monsters, Dragons, Orcs, and Dwarves!

Human alignment is: Water
Elf alignment is: Earth
Dwarf alignment is: Fire
Gnome alignment is: Air


Using these rules will produce Fighter, Cleric, Magic-User, or Thief for Labyrinth Lord with a twist! If you don't like my house rules, it shouldn't be too tough to modify these tables to fit your own campaign. Enjoy!


Jeff Moore

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Saturday, September 22, 2012

The Orc Feast of DEATH!

I have been playing D&D and other RPGs since I was 16 ... for over 30 years. I have been reading rules, and guides, and examples, and trying to find the way to create the perfect game.

There are many guides and examples that speak to the composition of "balanced encounters" and "challenging encounters" and "threat of death increasing the excitement of the game" ... The "Barrowmounds" is an old-school adventure where, "threat of death" and danger is very real. As DM I was drawn to this idea. Low powered heroes fighting for their lives, all dark and gritty and scary ... sounds awesome! But, was it the right thing for my group?

There are just as many "guides" out there (or at least things I have read in my past) that preach against the dangers of "Monty Haul" DMing ... And I remember something about 4th Edition trying to de-emphasize the importance of magic-items to avoid what that article referred to as "Christmas Tree" characters. Is this right? I have read all of this advice. I have followed it. But, is that the best thing for me to do?

We play once a week, with occasional "skip weeks" due to conflicts. We play from 7 to 10 ... But chatter and late arrivals cuts into this. It's difficult for players to immerse themselves into the fiction of the world. I have been playing the: dark dungeon ... slow advancement ... low magic ... low rewards ... in for the long haul ... game. It's a good game for frequent gamers. The kind of gamer I was 20 years ago. Is it right for the game we are playing now?

One rule I haven't read, maybe it's assumed to be common sense, maybe it's simply too difficult to explain or quantify ... I don't know, but it's important.


No two games, or groups are the same. What works for one doesn't work for all. The best thing to do is experiment. Try different things and pay attention to what works. Listen to your players and find out what they like ... and do that. Temper your actions with all that good advise about gaming, but then using that, embrace this simple truth: In gaming, 'Fan Service' is a good thing. "The fun of creating a story where you cast yourselves as the heroes is in living out your fantasies."


In our game, we play for just a short time. The sense of "danger" must be immediate and short lived. And rewards need to come around quickly. And combats ... "encounters" don't have to be the focal point of a game. This last game, I wasn't prepared. I hadn't been feeling well and I wasn't sure what to do, but I have improvised many a game, so I didn't worry too much. What I did was allow my players to take the reins and "run" their own game.

A story had been evolving where an army of Orcs were approaching to retrieve a legendary artifact. The artifact was of great religious importance to the Orcs. The players were under orders to deliver the artifact to the Orcs as a diplomatic gesture to avoid war. The problem? The players didn't want to do it. They needed a plan.

So, they made a plan. They made a plan, and as DM I could have thrown any number of wrenches into their machinations ... But, as I said ... I wasn't feeling particularly well ... And they seemed so engrossed by their schemes, that I gave them what they wanted. Their plans seemed logical enough in the context of our fictional universe, so ... Why not?

They used the fact that they possessed a powerful Orc artifact to parlay an audience with the Elf King. (The Human government was pushing the for the artifact's return.) They spoke to the Elves about making a replica of the artifact and enchanting it so that the Orcs wouldn't know.

They added the following "Geas" to the replica:

[ 1 ] Any Orc who sees this will know it to be the true artifact and have an irresistible compulsion to "show" the artifact to other Orcs.

[ 2 ] Ten hours after viewing the artifact any Orc who views it will be possessed of an irresistible compulsion to EAT another Orc.

This is what they wanted. It was crazy. It was silly. They were totally serious. They were passionately committed to this plan. So, I facilitated it ... Narrated its realization. And my players were thrilled. They are talking about the game days later. This silly little event was the highlight of their characters' careers. Why? Because it was an event that they made. This was their creation ... their game. And that's an important lesson to learn. Your RPG is your players' game. Let them have it.

Maybe next week your players will be talking about the cannibalistic carnage of, "The Orc Feast of Death!"


Jeff Moore

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Friday, September 14, 2012

Tabletop Dungeon Board Game Playtest Edition

A friend came over and we played a version of a now defunct "Aliens" Board Game, the rules for which he had pulled from the Internet. I liked the game mechanic for the Aliens which allowed them to be automated leaving all players to play the Heroes. It reminded me a bit of a game I have enjoyed called, "Castle Panic." Which is a cooperative play Castle Defense game that pits the players against "the board."

I was inspired enough to jot down some of my own ideas for a Dungeon Crawl game along the same lines. These rules are in "testing" process and will doubtlessly require some tweaking, but I couldn't think of anything else to blog about ... So, decided to share what I have done so far ...

Words and Pictures (such as they are) are by me: Jeff Moore.


The Heroes are trapped in the monster infested, ever changing, dungeon of the Lich King! They must find the exit and escape before the Lich King summons an undefeatable Dragon to kill them all!


Included in Tabletop Dungeon are Dungeon Tiles to cut out. A full set of tiles contains 8 Room (3x3-blue) Tiles, 8 Hallway (1x4-yellow) Tiles, 8 wound counters and 4 Doors. There are also 4 Hero, 1 Dragon, 18 Goblin, and 18 Orc paper minis.

Every Room will have a Hallway leading into/out of it and a door separating the room from any hallway connected to it.

Place one room and one hallway to start your dungeon.

Place the Door at the entrance to the room where the Hallway connects to it. This is the Initial set-up of your dungeon.


Place the heroes in the hallway in any order desired. Then place 6 Goblins in the room. When placing Monsters always fill the room starting with the squares furthest from the Door.


Heroes move and attack in any order, the only rule is that each Hero can Move no more than a total of 4 squares each turn and can Attack only once. Movement is orthogonal only (like a Rook on a chess board.) Diagonal movement is not allowed. If a Hero has a valid target, they may attack the target.

Heroes can move, attack and move again as long as the total move taken does not exceed 4 squares. Players can even take a move or partial move with their Hero, allow another player's Hero to act, and then complete their turn after the other Hero has acted. Players are encouraged to strategize together. Tabletop Dungeon is a cooperative game. All players take the role of Heroes, and the Heroes are a team.

Doors block line of fire to a target but figures (Heroes and Monsters) do not.
Heroes can open and Move through a door as a free action. Doors are never locked.
Monsters cannot open doors (see DOORS.) When a Hero opens a Door, remove it from the Dungeon.

Figures (Heroes or Monsters) do not block movement, but a Hero cannot end their move in a square occupied by another Hero.

A Hero can intentionally end their turn in a square occupied by a Monster (but NOT the Dragon.) In this case, place the Monster on the Hero's character sheet. The Hero is now threatened.

Hero Attacks

Heroes can attack any monster that is Threatening them or any monster in a square next to them. Additionally, the Wizard can attack any monster up to 5 squares away, and the Archer can attack any monster up to 8 squares away.

To attack, roll 1d6. The attack does damage if the die roll is equal to or greater than the Hero's "Hit On" number. Most attacks do 1 damage. Some Heroes have special abilities that allow them to do more damage.

Goblins have 1 Life. Orcs have 2 Life. If a monster takes Damage equal to or greater than its Life, remove the figure from the Dungeon.

If an Orc remains in the Dungeon and has taken 1 Damage, swap its figure out for a Goblin.

After all heroes have had an oppotunity to move and attack it's the Monsters' turn.


Monsters have a movement of 4. Move the monsters closest to the Heroes first. Monsters always move toward the closest Hero that is not already in Peril.


A Monster can end its turn on the same square as a Hero. When this happens, the Monster figure is removed from the dungeon and placed on the Hero's character sheet. The Hero is now Threatened by that Monster. A threatened Hero cannot move (except for the Archer*) but may still attack.

*When the Archer moves while threatened, return the Monster that had been threatening her to the dungeon, placing it in the square vacated by her figure.

Heroes can attack a monster threatening another Hero only if their figure is positioned next to the threatened Hero. This rule applies to the Wizard and the Archer as well as the Barbarian and the Knight.


If the Knight is Threatened by 2 Monsters, the Knight is in Peril.

If any other Hero is Threatened by 1 Monster, that Hero is in Peril.

A Hero in Peril is in the deep throes of combat with a Monster (or Monsters in the case of the Knight.) Monsters will move past a Hero that is in Peril to find a fresh victim.

If all Heroes are in Peril, Monster movement ends and no more Monsters will move.


If a closed Door exists between a Monster and the Heroes, move the Monster closest to the Door toward the Door. A Monster that ends its turn next to a Door is said to be attacking it. Only 1 Monster will attack a Door at a time. If a Door is already being attacked no more Monsters will move toward it.


To Search, all Heroes (any still living and in the dungeon) must be in the same room. This room cannot be one that has already been cleared. None of the Heroes can be Threatened.

When Searching, each Hero rolls once on the Search Results Table.


1-2 = Nothing Found.
3-4 = Roll once on the Minor Treasures table.
5-6 = Roll once on the Major Treasures table.
7+ = The Exit!

Heroes can only search a room once. To mark a room that has been searched place a monster figure laying down in the room. (Do this AFTER rolling on the seach table.) This room is now CLEARED.


1-2 = Luck Potion (re-roll 1 failed roll.)
3-4 = Healing Potion (remove 1 wound token.)
5-6 = Potion of Invisibility (Monsters ignore your Hero for 1 turn.)

A potion is good for a single use only. Drinking a Potion counts as 1 square of Movement.


1-2 = Boots of Speed (Your Hero Moves 6 Squares each turn.)
3-4 = Cloak of Protection (Add +1 to your Saving Throws.)
5-6 = Ring of Power (Add +1 to your Attack Rolls.)

An item must be worn to give its benefit. Putting on an item to wear it uses 1 Square of Movement. A Hero can only wear one item of each type.

Heroes can give or exchange treasure items with other Heroes as long as the two figures are standing next to eachother and neither Hero is threatened. Giving and accepting an item uses 1 Square of Movement for both the giver and the receiver.


If a player searching rolls "The Exit!" the Heroes have found their way out of the Dungeon and win the game!


Following Monster movement, any Hero who is in Peril must make a Saving Throw or suffer one wound.

To make a Saving Throw, roll 1d6. Your Hero is safe and takes no damage if the die roll is equal to or greater than the Hero's "Save On" number.

If your Hero fails this roll, you must place a Wound Counter on your character sheet.

If you have 3 Wound Counters on your character sheet, your Hero is out of the game.


If the Dragon is standing next to any Hero, that Hero must successfully roll a Saving Throw or place a wound counter on their character sheet.


Following SAVING THROWS, any DOOR that is being attacked by a Monster takes damage.

A - In the first turn that a door is being attacked, lay the door down on its side to show the effects of the initial damage.

B - In the second turn that a door is being attacked, remove the door from the dungeon.


The next phase is to add to the Dungeon! If there are an equal number of Rooms and Hallways, add a Hallway. If there are more Hallways than Rooms, add a Room.
Add a Door separating the Room from the Hallway where the two tiles meet.

When adding a Room, connect to the last Hallway that was placed. When adding a Hallway, roll to determine which Room the new Hallway will be added to:

Roll 1d3 -1 (for a result of 0, 1, or 2) and subtract this from the total number of rooms.

Example of a 1d3-1 roll with a total of 5 Rooms:
Roll of 1 (- 1) = 0 ... If total # of Rooms is 5, add the Hallway to Room 5 ... (5 - 0 = 5)
Roll of 2 (- 1) = 1 ... If total # of Rooms is 5, add the Hallway to Room 4 ... (5 - 1 = 4)
Roll of 3 (- 1) = 2 ... If total # of Rooms is 5, add the Hallway to Room 3 ... (5 - 2 = 3)

For any result less than 1, add the Hallway to Room 1.


Roll 1d3 + Total Number of ROOM Tiles in the Dungeon (including the new one.)

3-4 = 6 Goblins.
5-6 = 3 Goblins and 3 Orcs.
7-8 = 6 Orcs.
9+ = The Dragon!


Once the Dragon appears, the Dungeon is complete. You will not add any more tiles to the Dungeon.

The Dragon doesn't take damage and can't be hurt or killed.

The Dragon cannot move to occupy the same square as a Hero figure and is never removed from the Dungeon or placed on a Hero's character sheet.

The Dragon will take the shortest path to stand next to the closest Hero. The Dragon will stop next to the closest Hero even if that Hero is in Peril.


During phase 4-Saving Throws and Wounds, after all Heroes who are in Peril have rolled Saving Throws, (and placed wound counters on their Hero sheet if they failed,) any Hero standing next to the Dragon must make an additional Saving Throw or take 1 wound.


When a Hero has suffered 3 wounds, remove the Hero figure from the Dungeon. Place the Monster that was threatening the Hero in the square that the Hero was occupying.

When the Knight dies, place the strongest Monster threatening the Knight in the space that had been occupied by the Knight's figure and remove the other Monster from the Dungeon.


The Heroes defeat the Tabletop Dungeon by finding the Exit and Escaping.

Can you rescue all of your Heroes from Tabletop Dungeon?!


Jeff Moore

Friday, September 07, 2012

HiLo Heroes translated into French

Received a nice email this week from a very nice Mr. Rodolphe Carpentier, who has translated HiLo Heroes into French.

I now have an RPG on the web in two languages!

How cool is That!!


Jeff Moore

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Friday, August 31, 2012

Joss Whedon SHIELD series

I am really excited to hear that Joss will be returning to television. I watched Buffy, and Angel, and Dollhouse, and Firefly religiously. I am a fan. The news that Joss is writing/directing a new TV pilot called SHIELD, based in the Avengers movie universe for ABC/Disney is pretty darned exciting!

But, I am trying to get my brain around what that is going to look like. You see, I am also a huge comic book fan and I keep waiting for television to take the plunge and "go spandex" as it were. Sure, I enjoy Alphas, and Heroes, and No Ordinary Family. But, where are the costumes? Why is television so afraid of the costumed superhero? Movies have done it successfully. There's Watchmen, and Kick-Ass, and X-men: First Class, and obviously the Avengers, to name a few. So, I know it can be done. But, I fear it isn't going to be ... That SHIELD is really just going to be another "cop/military/spy show" clone. A sort of NCIS/Homeland thing. Not, that I dislike these kinds of shows, just that TV has enough of them already. I want my costumed supers.

Still, one must have faith, and Joss has a knack for taking a genre and turning it on its ear. And, he's a comic book fan too. So, with that in mind, I try to imagine this new series in the best possible light. To my mind it should be sleek and sexy, part 1960's era Mission Impossible, part Sean Connery's James Bond, part Sucker Punch, with some Scott Pilgrim thrown in. Everyone involved would do well to watch X-Men: First Class to get some ideas about style.

I imagine that the show will have a few "super" agents along the lines of Black Widow and Hawkeye (as they were depicted in the Avengers movie they were more "agent" less "super.") These "supers" will walk along side some well trained "normals." An ensemble of 8 or 9 key players. I see a very isolated microverse where we get the SHIELD helicarrier and it's inhabitants separated from the world (very Dollhouse like) especially at first.

And to satiate the comic fan in me ... It should have super villains ... Real super villains, MODOK, Fin Fang Foom, Kang the Conquerer, Ultron, etc. I see Joss creating a TV comic book universe where normal people must battle the super fantastical every week ... Yeah! That could be cool.

And although my dream of having Joss relaunch Blake's 7 may never happen, I am pretty excited that the SyFy Channel is taking a look at bringing that show back!

Ahh, good times to be geek!



Friday, August 24, 2012

Doctor Who COOL!!

This might be the coolest thing I have ever seen.

Also, starting Monday, August 27th and running through Friday on BBC1's YouTube channel is the web series, "Pond Life." The series features Karen Gillan and Arthur Darvill as Amy and Rory and will look at their adventures between trips on the TARDIS. Then on Saturday, Sept. 1 the new season of Doctor Who will finally premier! Hurray!! (Thanks to Ain't it Cool News!)



Friday, August 17, 2012

Shadow Era

I have written more than one entry in the past promoting free RPG's that you can print and play at your tabletop with your friends, but I don't believe I have ever talked about free-to-play computer games.

I am of mixed-emotions when it comes to micro-transaction driven MMORPG's ... I used to play City of Heroes, but had to stop because I simply didn't play enough to justify the expense. You would think that the free-to-play micro-transaction model would have been the perfect solution. But, I tried it ... And the game had lost something for me ... It just didn't feel "right" somehow. I certainly emphasized with Codex when she found herself fighting to save "her" game from the doom that is the micro-transaction and *gasp* "Apps!" in this past season of "The Guild."

Anyway, when it comes to things like this, I tend to be "dubious" at best. There is a fine line to be walked here. The producers of a game need to entice you as a player into spending a little something or they won't be able to stay in business. At the same time, the "free" experience has to be rich and full enough that players are excited to play the game without feeling that they are "cheating" themselves somehow by not spending money on the game.

There's a kind of "beggars can't be choosers" stigma behind "free to play games," I think. But, if I feel like the free game play experience is designed as nothing more than an advertisement for the "full version" of a game, I feel gypped. It would be like watching broadcast television (remember that?) where it showed nothing but infomercials ... Hmmm ... isn't that what happened to broadcast television? Some things in our world are just wrong. Shadow Era isn't one of them.

Shadow Era is a collectable trading card game. The game is making it's "physical" debut (real cards made of paper and ink) at GenCon Indy right now. So, it seems like a great time for this post. This is a review of the electronic version of the trading card game. I have played it on the iPad and on Windows PC. I have friends who play with their Android phones and tablets. The diversity of platforms that the game supports is a real boon, and I have managed to talk a handful of my friends into playing the game with me.

The game is a lot like Magic the Gathering and games of that ilk and doesn't do anything terribly new. This, to me isn't necessarily a bad thing. If you are familiar with games of this type, you will have no trouble learning Shadow Era. I hadn't played Magic since its 4th Edition, but I felt at home with Shadow Era in no time.

When you sign up for the game (A wonderfully painless process of entering an email address and choosing a password - no waiting; you are playing instantly ... This alone scores high marks with me!) you're given a free starter deck and asked to choose a "Hero." The Hero that you choose determines what sorts and combinations of cards you'll be able to play.

For my first Hero, I chose a Priest, and I got some cards that allowed my Hero to heal herself or her allies. Healing is a Priest ABILITY card. Only a Priest Hero deck can be built to include such a card. I also had Human Ability cards like, "Campfire Stories" that healed all of my allies a little and let me draw a card. And Neutral Ability cards like "Rain Delay" that keeps all allies from fighting for a turn in the hopes that you might draw just the card you need.

In Shadow Era each Hero will belong to one of two factions: Human (which you can think of as the side of 'Light') and Shadow (which one might think of as the side of 'Darkness'.) In the example above I mention abilities related to faction and abilities that are neutral. My Hero is part of the Human faction so she can use Human Abilities to build her deck. She can't include Shadow Abilities in her deck. A hero of either faction can use Neutral Abilities.

Your starter deck will have cards in it that are made just for your hero and you will start playing the game immediately. The help text/tutorial is actually helpful as you play your first games and I had a grasp of things after a game or two.

You can play online with your friends or with random players seeded to play against you based upon your skill and experience. But ...not immediately. Your starter deck is 30 cards, but it requires 40 cards to play online. Now you could hit the in game store and buy more cards immediately with real money, but I wouldn't recommend it.

The game gives experience as you play against the computer. When you level up you earn crystals. In a few levels you have enough "crystals" to get a booster pack or another starter. You can earn those extra 10 cards in no time, and while you're at it, you are learning to play the game and your deck. Personally, I think making players play the game against the computer for a bit before letting them jump into the competitiveness of the online experience is very wise.

The in game rewards that allow you to earn more cards are very fair. I was able to tweak and fine tune my Priest Deck into exactly what I wanted without spending a penny, and I never felt frustrated through the process. Now, that said, I also want to try a Rogue Deck, and a Warrior Deck, and a Hunter Deck, and a Mage Deck. Ah, well ... That's a lot of cards, and if I want to do that, I'm going to have to invest some real cash ... Or play ... A LOT. Fortunately, the crystals that you trade for booster packs are very reasonably priced.

The developers have balanced the free vs. pay pendulum perfectly. And, did I mention the game is fun?

As an RPG Gamer, I love the idea of a deck strategy that is built around a Hero and their Allies. I read somewhere that Shadow Era is very much like the World of Warcraft collectible card game in this regard. I have never played the WoW card game, but the comparison seems logical.

Your starter deck is like a pre-gen character you get to start adventuring. As your character gains experience and you learn the game, you begin to want to create your own character. Building a deck for Shadow Era is a lot like creating that character.

There are 5 kinds of cards in Shadow Era:

The Hero - Every deck has just one of these. The Hero is the foundation around which the entire deck is built.

Allies - these are minor supporting characters, they have their own attack and health totals, and most have special abilities. All Allies are connected to a faction, either Human Allies or Shadow Allies.

Abilities - I mentioned these earlier. These are things that your Hero can do. They tend to be used once and then gone, unlike allies who stick around until they are killed in battle or eliminated some other way. There is a special category of ability called an attachment that hooks onto a Hero or Ally and helps them out in some way. These tend to stick around until your opponent is able to use a counter ability to get rid of them.

Items - There are three types of items, Weapons, Armor, and Artifacts. Weapons and Armor have limited durability and will wear out after a few uses. Artifacts can stick around a long time if your opponent doesn't have an Ability card to play that can get rid of them. Weapons and Armor are equipped by your Hero. Without a weapon your Hero can't attack and must expend abilities to damage his opponent's Hero and her Allies.

Between Item Durability, and Ally Health, and Hero Health, and Shadow Points, (Oops ... knew I forgot something!) Shadow Era requires an awful lot of bookkeeping. Fortunately, bookkeeping is something computers handle easily, and while playing on my iPad, everything happens naturally, and I don't really have to think about it. I will be curious to see how the printed physical version of the card game fairs.

Above, I mention: Shadow Points. There is one final layer of strategy to consider when you choose your Hero. Every Hero has a Shadow Ability (even the Human ones!) and this ability can really have an effect on the game. My Priest Hero has the ability to Heal an Ally for 3 Health, at the cost of 3 Shadow Points.

Shadow Points are the currency for Hero special powers. Every turn your Shadow Point total increases by 1, but using your Hero's Shadow Ability diminishes this total, and the points have to build up in order for you to use your Shadow Ability again. The other cards in your deck also have a 'cost' for play. As you play, you can assign one card each turn as a 'resource.' This card is lost as an Ally, Item or Ability, but it can now be used to 'pay' for other cards, allowing you to bring them into play.

Unlike Shadow Points, Resource Cards aren't expended when you use them, they stick around to be used again and again. As long as you continue to 'sacrifice' a card to your Resource pile, your available resources will grow, 1 Resource in the first turn, 2 in the second, 3 in the third and so on. Most cards cost between 2 and 5 resources to play. There is a real strategy in choosing which cards you can sacrifice and which cards you need to hold onto so you can play them.

Game play has been designed from the ground up for online. On your turn only you are able to act and the same for your opponent. There are no 'interrupts' and when playing online against other real people you have a time constraint. This panicked me in my first few games, but it's really plenty of time, while still making certain each match moves along at a healthy pace. This is also another good reason to spend that time playing against the computer. The computer games will pause for you indefinitely allowing you to read the text of every card for as long as you might need to understand them.

The cards are gorgeous ... Really beautiful ... And the latest release includes digital foils of common cards that are just spectacular! Anyway ... If you enjoy trading card games and get the chance ... Check out: Shadow Era. You'll be glad you did!



Friday, August 10, 2012

New Five by Five Character Sheet + Some Optional Rules

Recently, Michael Wolf of Stargazer's World posted a plug for Five by Five. Thanks Michael! He also asked if I had ever created a character sheet for Five by Five. As it happens, the last time we played (a Zombie Apocalypse game) one of my players ("Hi, Starbuck!") created a character sheet for me.

I posted about the character sheet then, but the character sheet has changed a little since that post and since Michael was kind enough to ask about it, I thought I would go ahead and do an updated post.

Since the completion of the Five by Five ver. 2 rulebook, a small number of rules changes have occured and are included with the new character sheet.

The new rules and other changes are:

Notice that at the top of the sheet where the various trait ranks are displayed, I have: "Poor -5."

That's your weakness trait.

I changed the term from "Weakness" to "Poor" because players found the term "Weakness" misleading.

People kept wanting to take traits like, "Sensitive to sunlight." This was not the intent of the Weak Trait. It is meant to convey a skill or ability that most take for granted, but that your character struggles with, like: "Cooking" if you can't boil water, or "Smooth Talker" for someone who always gets tongue tied.

You can't roll a -5 or less. This is meant to be interpreted as "roll -1d5" or "roll one less five-sided die." That is, roll 1 die rather than 2, and a result of 0 is (as always) a success.

This isn't new, just a clarification. In the rulebook I use 1/2 to describe a weak trait. I am not sure which manner of notation is best. I changed this to create some consistency in the way the numbers are presented. Neither notation is particularly intuitive.

The other ranks that need explanation are: "Advanced Master" and "Advanced Legendary."

I am playing with the idea of Advanced Traits. These are a special category of traits that can never be used "Untrained." It includes things like, "Brain Surgery," and "Fly Like a Bird."

My idea is that such traits always suffer a Rank Shift Penalty of -2. This pushes the "Untrained" version of such a trait off the chart (making it impossible) and makes the "Novice" version of the trait perform as "Poor." (Do you want to be operated on by a "novice" brain surgeon?)

The new columns are added to create room for advancing players to use their doubles to buy Advanced Skill Ranks at the Master and Legendary levels. The Advanced Skills need to be recorded at their actual level in order to track Doubles Costs appropriately, and then the Rank Shifts applied. Next, there are those boxes with the words: Agility, Brawn, Cognition, and Determination. I borrowed these from A+ Fantasy. For Five by Five, let's call them, "Talents."

One of my players was consistently bothered by the idea that all untrained tasks default to the same baseline for every person. He wanted a more broad reflection of natural affinities like: intelligence, strength, or dexterity.

I had left these out of Five by Five intentionally in the interest of keeping things simple and streamlined, but finally, I relented.

Talents have one word descriptors that determine how they are used.

Challenged - You have trouble with all tasks related to this particular talent. You can notate a "Challenged" talent by placing a subtraction sign ( - ) in the box for that talent.

Normal - Just like any other average person, you are not particularly good or bad at things related to this talent. You don't do anything to notate a "Normal" talent. Just leave the box empty.

Gifted - You are good with all tasks related to this talent. You can notate a "Gifted" talent by placing an addition sign ( + ) in the box for that talent.

By default, everyone is considered to be normal and these boxes are empty.

Talents are optional.

Just ignore the boxes if you aren't going to use the optional talent rules and everything works just as written in the rulebook.

If you do want to use talents in your game, they work like this:

In order to have a Gifted Talent you must also take a Challenged Talent.

For any task related to a Gifted Talent you get a +1 positive rank shift.

For any task related to a Challenged Talent you get a -1 negative rank shift.

That's it for talents.

If you use these rules, you must always consider which talent a task is based upon before rolling a 5x5 action check. Using the rules for talents, not every untrained person will perform every task the same.

Finally, the character sheet shows Experience Points rather than Doubles ... I am considering moving away from Doubles and using Experience points instead. Use whichever you like and keep track of it in this space.

If you want to continue to use Doubles, consider your group's style of play. A group that fights numerous combats in a session will acquire a much higher number of Doubles, than a group that spends a lot of time role-playing. Also, longer sessions will produce higher numbers of Doubles than shorter sessions.

The Doubles requirements for character improvement listed in the rulebook are the result of playtests set in a superhero universe. This style of play was very combat intensive. Since recording these results I have found that other styles of play that are less combat oriented produce much smaller numbers of Doubles.

If you use Doubles your referee will want to adjust the Doubles requirements so that an average session will produce enough Doubles for a player to raise an "Untraned" trait up one notch to "Novice" after one or two game sessions. (The superhero playtest that I ran averaged 15 to 30 doubles per player each game.)

If you want to change to an Experience Point based model, the referee can simply award 15 to 30 experience points to each player following an average game session.

And ... That's the Five by Five character sheet.

I've added these notes and the character sheet onto the existing Five by Five rules document, so just download Five by Five using the link to the right and you'll find the character sheet in the back of the book.



Friday, August 03, 2012

Supercrew Review from Game Cryer

The following very excellent review of the Supercrew was originally published on "Game Cryer" and is reprinted here by kind permission of the author.

Posted by Steve Darlington on Saturday, May 30th, 2009

RPGs may have begun their journey with fantasy, but from very early on roleplaying and superheroes have been almost inseparable. After all, roleplaying lets us be like our greatest heroes, and for many of us, comic superheroes are our favorite heroes of all. But as long as there have been superhero RPGs there has been the problem with them: most RPGs work by listing the rules on what people can and can’t do, and superheroes are all about breaking those rules. Various solutions have been presented over the years, but perhaps none so distinctive or so clever as that presented in The Supercrew, a brand new Swedish RPG by Tobias Radesäter. Thanks to the wonders of the modern age it’s available to anyone across the world, in English or the original Swedish, in PDF form or a glossy 30 page print-on-demand comic book thanks to the benevolence of

You read that correctly: the entire RPG is in fact a comic book, in full color and a rather jaunty, fun style. Using such a device is risky but Radesäter is deft enough to make it cute and wry without ever being saccharine or condescending. He’s also a great artist and uses comic panels with great skill. The end result is an RPG that’s not just easy to understand but fun to read and communicates its simple but elegant system more effectively and pleasantly than anything else I’ve ever seen. It helps of course that the system is so simple and elegant, reducing everything to a universal mechanic of pooled six-siders, yet still modeling every superpower you can imagine while providing dramatic and intriguing mechanical results that feed the players’ imagination and drive the story. Just as it’s amazing that such a great RPG can fit into a mere 30 colorful pages, it’s amazing that so much game can arise from such a simple system.

The Supercrew has much in common with other simple, one-mechanic d6 systems like that in Over the Edge or the also-cutely-illustrated Risus. As with both systems, players define their abilities to be whatever they want: what matters is the number of dice you roll. In Supercrew, everyone has just three stats. One is associated with one die, one with two dice and one with three. In superhero terms, the two is your most reliable power, the one is the one you fail at most and the three is the big gun you can only pull out for the big finish or amazing victory. In fact, you can only roll your three dice stat by spending a hero point, which you get for “falling down” (ie being reduced to no hit points) or for using your one die stat. This is akin to Hero Points in Green Ronin’s Mutants & Masterminds, which you can only get for losing a battle or suffering complications.

There’s more subtlety here than just mimicking the pacing of a comic book. Games where you can choose your own stats have always suffered from the problem of expansive definitions: players - no matter how collaborative they try to be - will always try to define their best mechanical powers to be as expansive as possible, so they can roll them as often as possible. There is of course nothing inherently wrong with this: for one thing, it encourages creativity and unique game situations; Risus devotes a major rules section to explaining how the cooking skill could be used to defeat ninjas. What’s great about Supercrew’s mechanic is that it loses none of this creativity but still drives players to use their lesser stats. And it does it without using a scarcity mechanic like Dungeons & Dragons 4th Edition. As long as players are happy to fail, they can keep powering up. This is a beautiful combination of gamist and narrativist mechanics, and one of the few that not only recognizes that players can have both drives simultaneously but caters to both (and in a simple fashion, without the structuralism issues of Wushu).

(There’s also some deep narrative subtlety in choosing your powers. For example, Batman is the world’s greatest detective but in any given story, he usually takes a long time to figure out he’s being set up by the Riddler - and once he does, it’s a an ever-reliable batarang that saves the day. So it might be that his Detective powers would be his one-die stat. Extension work on narrative progression as compared to character power is left to the interested reader.)

It should be said though that failure is rare: a success is any roll of a 4, 5 or 6, and 6s explode, allowing a single roll to generate high successes. This is another elegant mechanic, providing a large range of possibilities and large amounts of information from a really simple dice roll. It is also optional - many situations only need one success to pass. But Supercrew doesn’t rest on its laurels: success count is what it produces and it doesn’t leave them lying around ignored. All tests in the game, no matter what is being done, are based on success counts. Akin to Wushu, Inspectres or skill challenges in 4E, every problem requires a number of successes to solve - but what those successes (and failures) represent is left entirely up to the players and GM (and without demanding one party or another narrate, which is one of the terribly restrictive parts of several indie RPGs like OctaNe and Dust Devils).

The example in the book is stopping the villains from escaping from a bank robbery, a task requiring three successes (from all the heroes). Flying superhero Bullfinch flies up high to see where they are going but rolls zero successes. The player decides that bad guy Fiat Lux clips him with a light ray, knocking him out of the sky. This doesn’t count as actual damage however, just no progress towards the goal.

“Combat” works much the same way as these tests except that the tests can fight back. Having generated the successes to stop Fiat Lux, this notorious villain distracts the Supercrew battling him by starting a fire. Like the escape, the fire has a number of successes to be “defeated” (as do the heroes) but now it also gets stat rolls of its own. Each round, everyone rolls the stat they want to use, and the highest success also goes first. When attacked (be it by a light ray of Fiat Lux or smoke from a fire) heroes can just roll a “reflex defense” of one die to resist, or use a power – but the latter is only possible if they haven’t acted yet, or if they cancel their intended action. In short, they have to take the pain if they want to do as much damage back. This again mimics comics well, where a lot of fights aren’t about trading blows back and forth so much as heroes using their powers to resist attacks until they see an opening.

Damage is the difference in success levels. If heroes take three damage they are knocked out for the scene; if the fire or bad guy or whatever takes their Toughness in damage, they are defeated (for whatever that means). A lot of simple, narrative RPGs turn bad guys into situations; by going the other way and turning situations into bad guys, Supercrew allows situations to have personality. This drives emotional game play, as players will feel angry at the fire when it “attacks” them with smoke or falling masonry, and again drives narrative, as villains and hazards typically work exactly the same way, literally speaking, in most comic stories (see for example, the Batman arc about the earthquake in Gotham City, or any Spiderman comic where dealing with Aunt May is just as crucial as dealing with Dr Octopus).

The other great thing about this system is it allows massive combats to be resolved with simple mechanics, a typical bugbear of superhero games. A hundred ninjas or the Legion of Doom can be just one hazard. And yet they won’t end up feeling the same because like heroes, challenges get tricks they can use to power up their rolls.

For heroes, these are always the same: the ability to re-roll one die roll, the ability to say you generate two successes and the ability to make one die rolled a five (thus adding a simple success). Each hero can do each of these once per game (or story, if you prefer) and again, it’s up to them to interpret them. Typically they are defined at chargen and linked to a particular ability but they needn’t be, and they can link to any ability. You might want your three-dice ability to be generally very reliable, thus linking it to the “two successes” trick, but on the other hand, maybe you want it to be something that is wildly unpredictable, generating a wide range of successes as your power rages out of control, so the “re-roll” trick is a better choice. Choosing when to use these powers and how they help allows players some mechanical depth and fosters further creativity. Meanwhile, the GM isn’t left out, deciding when his Fire will use its “Falling Masonry” trick to do more damage (and drive up the narrative tension).

Unfortunately, Supercrew only provides examples of hazards and villains, not any tips, guides or rules for generating their tricks and powers and Toughness levels. This is a massive flaw in the game and even the list of excellent and flavorful examples can’t quite make up for it. We can only hope and pray that Radesäter releases a GM guide or adventure anthology as soon as possible (or allows me to write one, hint hint) to fill this gap. This would also be awesome because we’d get to hear more about the Supercrew, and they are very cool indeed.

As mentioned above, the entire RPG is told in comic form. Much of this involves an authorial insert character explaining his RPG while wandering around an underground “RPG design lab”, allowing hilarious bits of satire and slapstick to go on in the background. But his examples are all drawn from the Supercrew whose continuing exploits against the evil Fiat Lux grow ever more complex and explosive as the mechanics to support such things are provided. Thus when we know all the rules, we are rewarded with the big-time showdown.

And for all the genius of the game so far, the genius I’ve gone at lengths to describe already, all of it is nothing compared to the staggering genius of this book’s construction and presentation. I’ve always, always been adamant that the most unsung aspect of RPG design is presentation, so that reading the book is not just enjoyable but causes the information to be “taught” in the most elegant way, using style and layout and tempo to teach invisibly, sending the theme and shape of the game into the player’s mind without them even realizing it. But to date no game has ever come anywhere near the teaching mastery of Supercrew. The simple act of explaining the system driving the story rewards the reader for their understanding and makes them eager to read ever onward. Yes, the story is simplistic and the heroism child-like and four-color, but it’s still fun and immensely engaging. It helps a lot that the heroes have a Swedish flair to them (most notably Captain Sweden himself), preventing them from being too similar to American clones. It also rescues them from the bane of 99% of superhero RPGs and settings, which is to be drenched in American comic lore (no, I really do not give a flying fruit bat about the various “ages”, mister designer) and the deconstructionism or “irony” that inevitably brings with it (Truth and Justice, I’m looking at you). All too often, taking superheroes seriously or intellectually crushes the life out of them, and this is true in RPGs as well as comics.

Supercrew is in no danger of this. It is furiously, unstoppably fun, on every page. It is also, despite its brilliant design and nods to satire, gorgeously simple in all the best senses. In fact, if it weren’t for a single swear word, it would be a fantastic RPG for children. It helps immensely in all these regards that it is - like its inspiration - a thirty-page comic book that you can carry anywhere. I have seen nothing so tragic in RPG emulation design as the recent Mouse Guard RPG, where a light-as-a-feather comic book was emulated with a giant brick of an RPG. That was so wrong it caused me physical pain.

In a day and age where more and more game designers are realizing that carting stuff around is a major issue (and is why PDFs are so important), Supercrew is leading the pack with an RPG that is staggeringly complete and enduringly useful in a package more portable than an Kindle. And universal too - although it is full of a love for superheroes, the system will work with nearly anything. In an age of coffee table books, Supercrew also remains a beautiful game, with Radesäter’s art shining off every page and begging to be shown off. And in a lovely conceit, Radesäter emphasizes the lesson of his RPG writing in character design, demanding that players draw their characters and color them in. It’s a little lame and a little forced, but it is so in the same style as the rest of the RPG: with a sense of fun and wonder and engagement that awakens the childlike joy of creation that RPGs can so often bring forth - but so often fail to.

In an age of high-criticism (such as we are in), there is a constant danger in any art form of thinking that light-hearted, whimsical or simplistic works cannot be immensely intelligent, critically observant and unbelievably accomplished. Supercrew is the absolute destruction of that idea, being all three of the latter things without ever once sacrificing the former three. It is light in every possible sense of the word, and it gives off light, illuminating the gaming world, inspiring designers with its genius and players with its uncontained spirit of fun and wonder. It enlightens the mind, engages the heart and warms the soul, and what more could we ask for.

Style: 5 (Undoubtedly the best-written RPG in the entire history of the hobby)
Substance: 5 (One of most elegant and richest simple systems you will find)


I realize that I have been going a bit nuts over the Supercrew here of late, but I really feel the game is well worth its praise, and as it's now a few years old and the original buzz about it may have died down to make room for the next "new" thing. I really want to do my part to make sure this little gem doesn't vanish into obscurity. It deserves so much better.


Jeff Moore

Friday, July 27, 2012

LITKO Game Accessories

I wanted to write a quick review for LITKO Game Accessories who make some really nice laser cut wooden game tiles. The tiles lock together like puzzle pieces and remind me of playing "Advanced Hero Quest" way back in the 90's.

The product is called "space corridor" and so appears to be made for playing a "Space Hulk" style game (another blast from the 90's.) But I find the tiles equally suited to the dungeon crawl. The pieces are thin but sturdy, they come pre-scored in 28mm squares which works fine for most fantasy RPG gaming. But be careful not to buy the 15mm ones which are too small for table-top RPG minis. (The Master Set description and box lid say 35mm even though the link says 28. I'm not sure which is correct, but they're a good size for most standard RPG miniatures.)

You can go to and find "Terrain & Buildings" in the left hand column near the bottom, then choose "Space Corridor" and "28mm Scale Space Corridor," or you can click on the link HERE.

I bought "Tokens & Markers / Medium Door Markers" to go with the tiles I purchased as I liked these better for fantasy dungeons than the bulkhead style doors listed with the space corridor set. The tiles are unfinished wood and examples of painted pieces prove the components can be decorated really beautifully if you are artistically inclined.

These are the doors I bought because they were more "dungeoney!"

Example of painted tiles. This is the space corridor Master Set. (Tiles come unpainted.)

More painted tiles ... These tiles are from the space corridor Expansion Set.

The pictures above are from the website and show the tiles painted for space gaming. The image all the way at the top is mine and is from this weeks gaming session. It depicts the entire sample dungeon from page 130 of the Labyrinth Lord rule book. I think it worked out quite nicely.

I should mention that I didn't buy the Master Set but rather picked up my collection piecemeal ... The picture at the top of my review shows the tiles in my personal collection. (I used all but 2!)

The little puzzle nubbins that stick out may appear delicate, but they are really quite sturdy. We've been playing with the tiles since January and none of them have broken, and I don't expect them to. The pieces are of really high quality and well worth their price.

Tiles can be purchased individually or there is a very nice set which will get you a lot of tiles at a reasonable price.

One last picture, the battle with the Albino Ape in room 5. (Sorry about the blurry ... this one was taken with my iPad.)

Check out LITKO Game Accessories. You'll be glad you did!


Jeff Moore