Power Rangers RPG Threat: Balgor

General Krohn called upon Lt Balgor when Gnarl and Slayn’s minions failed. He is a Dragonoid from the Netherworld. He has a nearly endless supply of magic water to keep him going when the fear of the puny humans isn’t enough to keep him going.

General Krohn’s fierce lieutenant will be back to torment the Rangers time and again!

(Artwork to come.)

Lt. Balgor, Krohn’s most trusted lieutenant.
Resilient THREAT LEVEL: 16
SIZE: LARGE | HEALTH:
TOUGHNESS: 20 (Heavy Armor) | EVASION: 16
WILLPOWER: 16 | CLEVERNESS: 14
GROUND MOVEMENT: 30 ft. | FLY: 40 ft.
General Krohn called upon Lt Balgor when Gnarl and Slayn’s minions failed. He is a Dragonoid from the Netherworld. He has a nearly endless supply of magic water to keep him going when the fear of the puny humans isn’t enough to keep him going.
SKILLS:
Might- (*Axe and Chain Flail) +d10
Brawn +d6
Initiative: +d6
Targeting (*Fireballs/Flame Breath): +d6
Alertness: +d6
Hunting: +d6
Intimidation +d8
Languages: Putty, English

PERKS:
Winged Flight, 40′.
Resistance: Fire
Sanzu River Water supply.
ATTACKS:
Massive Obsidian Axe: (Might) +d10* 2 attacks/turn in addition to ONE of the other attacks listed below. (Toughness, 10′ Reach, 3 Armor Piercing Intimidating, Sharp,

Fire Chains: (Might) +d10* 1 attack/round in addition to ONE of the other attacks listed. (Evasion, 10′ Reach, Maneuver-Entangle or trip. 2 Fire.)

Breathe Fire: (Targeting, 3x/scene): +d6*, Range 30 ft. (Evasion, 2 Fire Damage in a 5′ x 30′ x 15′ Area cone of fire. All targets in the cone must roll Evasion.)

Throw Fireball: (Targeting, 3x/scene): +d6*, Range 40/100 ft. (Evasion, 2 Explosive, Area, 15′ radius, Fire Damage)

POWERS:
Summon 3d6 Dragon Putties (Stats as Z Putty Patrollers.)
Always has 4 Dragon Putty Bodyguards at all times.

Hang-Ups:
Must feed on Human Fear OR Drink water from the Sanzu River.
Failure to maintain his fear level at least once per day results in a loss of 1 Health per day until defeated.
If Balgor is defeated, he will return to the Netherworld to recover at the rate of 1 Health per day.

A Tumultuous Time for Part of the RPG Industry.

Then there’s Star Frontiers: New Genesis. I really don’t want to give this product or this company any free press. There are literally hundreds of RPGs that I’d rather invest my time and effort it. Yeah. It’s that bad.

I’ve been following the recent news about a game company that many of us in the community had a world of love and respect for back in the day.

I was genuinely excited when I heard someone was bringing back Star Frontiers. Taken at face value, it’s one of the coolest things to happen since D&D 5E! Freakin Star Frontiers! It’s back. YAY!

Here’s the Bell of Lost Souls article.

The original Star Frontiers cover art by Larry Elmore.

Did I mention it looks awesome on the surface?

I keep my somewhat banged-up copy of the original with my D&D boxed sets. I’ve kept up with the game on and off. It’s a really amazing classic Sci-Fi RPG. It’s been available in reprint form on DrivethruRPG. That in and of itself is enough for some of us old school gamers.

Then there’s Star Frontiers: New Genesis. I really don’t want to give this product or this company any free press. There are literally hundreds of RPGs that I’d rather invest my time and effort it. Yeah. It’s that bad.

There are two notables among many out there fighting the good fight.

In case anyone wonders, I always type it out as T$R to honor this old logo. It’s a dragon, not a dollar sign.

Tom (Jedion) at Table Top Taproom on YouTube has been embroiled in an ongoing conflict with the person behind this revival version of T$R. Another soldier in this battle is Tenkar of Tenkar’s Tavern. They have both been up to their proverbial eyeballs in harsh trolling on Twitter. (Gonna leave those links alone, because it’s pretty brutal.) They have both been making videos in support of one another and are very critical of these guys at the “nuTSR.” From what I’ve seen between Tom and Tenkar, there’s no way I’ll touch the new Star Frontiers.

In fact, from all of the internet brawling I’ve seen over Star Frontiers: New Genesis and other “nuTSR” properties, I won’t touch anything the authors do. Ever. Please note, it takes a lot for me to be openly offended this way.

I’m just peeking in on this insanity that is “nuTSR.”

The old T$R had its flaws before and after the Lorraine Williams era. Gary Gygax, (Rest in Peace) had his own personality quirks and flaws that people have called out. It’s all water under the bridge now, but we do owe Gary Gygax, Dave Arneson and others credit for putting RPGs on the map.

There are so many award winning authors and RPG designers who passed through the hallowed halls of old T$R, I can’t name them all or we’ll be here all day. Some of the luminaries from the T$R golden age of prosperity and even a few of the later hires are still HUGE names in the RPG business.

Despite the popular culture overtones of the time, many of the games from the 1980’s and 1990’s are still thriving in one form or another. Some of them are five, maybe six editions in. (It happens.) Many old campaigns and modules in reprint now come with a disclaimer from Wizards of the Coast.

The disclaimer as it appears on DriveThruRPG and DMsGuild.

I would bet my collection of Polyhedron magazines none, absolutely none of the old T$R crew would sign off on anything these “nuTSR” guys have been doing. From everything I’ve seen, most conscientious gamers won’t touch the stuff these new guys are putting out. We feel bad for the ones who have.

It’s not just Star Frontiers, either. This “nuTSR” has acquired the licenses for Dungeon Crawl and Cult of Abaddon (module.) Apparently they have not shipped as promised. Seems a bit suspicious at best. At worst, it’s awful customer service. (*Here’s a thought- don’t screw people who are giving you money in exchange for your product!)

Crowdfunded efforts unfulfilled. Designers/Writers blasting fans publicly on social media. One incident on social media involved threats against someone’s family. Star Frontiers: New Genesis is a hot mess from what we hear. Lore and backgrounds aside, it is rumored the editing is a total disaster. The museum and several old T$R intellectual properties are on the line, too. Oh, and apparently WotC has issued a Cease and Desist order and set their crack ninja death squad of elite hit lawyers on the perpetrators from this “nuTSR.”

Trauma and drama aside, the true disservice is done to the fans at this point.

No offense to Tom and Tenkar, but that’s what hurts most about this entire debacle. There are some real Dungeon Crawl fans out there. If there was a successful, well thought-out, well edited remake of a classic game, who knows how many fans could have been introduced? The same can be said for Star Frontiers.

Old school T$R fans from all over are shocked and appalled at what has gone down with “nuTSR.” No matter how freaky and controversial the old guard T$R might be, they would never have stamped their imprint some something shoddy, undeliverable, unedited, blatantly offensive, or promised but not delivered. Then to go on social media (*sorry, not much 1980’s or 1990’s comparison,) and treat fans and buyers like absolute dirt? Ouch.

My humble advice regarding “nuTSR.”

I sincerely hope this all dies down soon and we can get back to gaming. Star Frontiers really was a good game. Please, my advice will always be, put your energy toward that which you love, not creating more hate. Love Dungeon Crawl. Love Star Frontiers. Please give Table Top Tap Room and Tenkar’s Tavern a listen over on YouTube.

My other earnest advice, from someone who used to be somewhat anti-WotC, please watch the manufacturer listed on the product! If it comes straight from Wizards of the Coast or old T$R via WotC, then you can reasonably assume it’s authentic. I also find that knowing a little of the product history helps when I’m looking at older modules. There are plenty of other companies reprinting or revising old T$R modules and they’re fine.

Good times are on the horizon. Please stay hydrated. Stay safe. Thanks for being here. You are appreciated.

5 RPG Genres That Aren’t Medieval Fantasy

There are other genres I love and adore more than fantasy. I’m going to do a quick rundown on some of the pros and why I like them so much.

I have shelves upon shelves of D&D and other fantasy games.

But, believe it or not, there are other genres I love and adore more than fantasy. I’m going to do a quick rundown on some of the pros and why I like them so much.

  1. Mecha.
  2. Supers.
  3. Cyberpunk.
  4. Space/Sci Fi/Space Opera.
  5. Horror.
  6. (Steampunk.)

1. Mecha!

Okay, who doesn’t love giant robots? This is a sort of subgenre of Anime roleplaying. I didn’t include anime on this list because as I’ve said previously, you can anime-up just about any campaign. Mecha is it’s own animal because um, giant robots, transformable cars, and cool starships. Stories in mecha games usually focus more on the pilots than the magnificent tech.

I think mecha get stereotyped as giant robots, but it really applies to multiple vehicles, powered armor suits, and other mechanized items including robots. There are some very well-known titles in this genre such as Robotech/Macross from Palladium Games, Mekton/Roadstriker by R Talsorian (IF you can still find it,) and Mechwarrior (Battletech) by FASA. Honorable mention goes to Heavy Gear and Jovian Chronicles by Dream Pod 9.

Some titles that may not have made everyone’s list, but I love dearly include Mecha Hack by Absolute Tabletop, Chris Perrin’s Mecha, and Lancer from Massif Press. I would also mention mecha tales work excellently with many anime games such as Big Eyes, Small Mouth and OVA the RPG. There are also a couple of really awesome FATE campaigns tooled for mecha usage.

2. Supers:

If you look on DriveThruRPG.com, there are dozens of superhero RPGs, making it one of the most prevalent genres in gaming. I think the essence of supers is to step outside of ourselves to put on the cape and be the hero we’ve always wanted to be. I’ve personally played and GM’d more superhero RPGs than I’d care to admit. Everything from Marvel and DC all the way down to Tiny D6 Supers.

My current and possibly all time favorite supers RPG is ICONS by RPG luminary Steve Kenson. Ironically, Steve is also one of the brilliant minds behind the original Mutants & Masterminds. I’d also be remiss if I didn’t at least mention good old Heroes Unlimited from Palladium.

If you want a few other names to look into for supers gaming, I suggest Capes, Cowls, and Villains Foul by Spectrum Games. It’s got a lot of the same zing as Cartoon Action hour. There’s also the HERO System/ Champions line of games that practically defined the industry and the genre. Last but not least, there’s (my other favorite) Power Rangers RPG by Renegade Games. Sentai games such as Power Rangers cross the borders between mecha and supers.

3. Cyberpunk:

In recent years, I’ve backed way, way off of running Cyberpunk. I’ve had tons of hours running CP2020, which let’s face it, has become somewhat anachronistic. I also fell out of love with the RPG when it became a mainstream video game. Not because I play the video game, but because running the TTRPG feels a bit redundant and outdated.

Noteables in this genre include Shadowrun (FASA or whomever has the license these days,) OGL Cyberpunk from the D&D 3.0 days, and any number of anime games. Much like mecha, cyberpunk and anime go hand-in-hand. Cyberpunk games are easily adapted from generic systems such as FATE, D20, and Cypher systems. Cortex would also be one of my first choices for a newer cyberpunk game.

4. Space/Sci-Fi/Space Opera:

This is another fantastically huge category. Options range from hard science, such as Traveler to space opera such as Star Wars or Battlestar Galactica. I could write entire articles about RPGs and RPG subgenres within this category and talk about it all day.

I’ve been missing and reminiscing about Star Wars as of late. I miss the space opera/space fantasy vibe. I miss cutting down armies of battle droids, awesome lightsaber fights, intense starfighter battles, comedy involving “Gonk” Power Droids, and all kinds of different species throughout the galaxy. Sometimes the conversations between sessions were as much fun as running this genre.

I also love Star Trek as an RPG, but it’s had more licensees than I can easily count. I have FASA, Last Unicorn, and a couple of other renditions of the Star Trek Universe. It’s also easily adapted to FATE or D20. Some people refer to Star Trek as “science fantasy” because of the <poof> it’s there technology and freakishly powerful extraterrestrial beings.

Aside from my fondness of all things Galactica, I have a real love of Starship Troopers and Aliens. What’s Old Is N.E.W. by EN Publishing actually encompasses both and was lots of fun to run. I still love Mongoose Publishing’s old Starship Troopers and it remains on my shelves to this day.

Photo by Jacub Gomez on Pexels.com

5. Horror:

Photo by Daniel Adesina on Pexels.com

Not gonna lie, I love this genre. I struggle the most with this genre. It’s been a gnawing bone of contention in my mind for over 30 years.

How do you scare your players without psychologically damaging them for life? At what point does the campaign devolve into horror comedy? Would it just be easier to watch a movie? My mind can go to some pretty dark and creepy places if I’m really trying. Many of us have had worse real life trauma.

True story- we nearly got kicked out of our weekly Werewolf venue once because I was chanting as one of the NPCs. A passing custodian heard me and got spooked. We were allowed to stay as long as I didn’t summon anything. Eesh.

World of Darkness games are probably the forefront of horror RPGs, followed closely by Call of Cthulhu in all of its many forms. After that, much like anime, you can insert horror themes and thematic elements into any RPG out there for the most part. (Magical Girl Anime Horror? See also creepy Hentai.) Likewise, FATE and several other generic systems are adaptable to various horror settings.

I’d like to give a shout out to Spectrum Games’ Slasher Flick. It’s a game where you get to be on the losing end of a Friday the 13th type scenario and still make the best of it. Spectrum makes a lot of really cool horror games.

I’ve recently become enamored with Monster of the Week by Michael Sands and published by Evil Hat. This game has not only inspired a campaign, but has encouraged me back into the genre. I love the idea of putting the smackdown on all kinds of baddies.

6. Steampunk:

Photo by Antonio Friedemann on Pexels.com

Sorta. Ish. Like, this could be an extended subgenre of fantasy, mecha, or even anime with a little work. I feel this is an underappreciated subgenre of roleplaying that deserves special attention. I have several steampunk RPGs and setting guides that I will review and/or discuss later. Steampunk’s smoky cousin, Dieselpunk is also a subgenre worthy of more exploration.

Thanks for hanging out today. I love RPGs. I love exploring different systems, worlds, settings, tropes and characters of various RPGs. I appreciate you being here. Have a good one!

Tales of the Des Moines Remote Viewing Society.

This is night number two of the fairgrounds case with the missing chainsaw carver statues. We’re going back today to see if we can set up trap cams after they shut the booth down for the night. The footage from last night is pretty compelling stuff. Dan and I believe Tom may have gotten distracted while on duty.

Case 2. Dead Wood in Des Moines.

From the Journal of Brenda Hart, Secretary/Treasurer of the DsMRMVS.

Wanted to jot down some findings on our first two “cases.” I had to remind the boys that we’re not detectives and we’re not getting paid for any of this yet. I don’t think any of us are doing this for profit. More for truth, justice and disclosure.

This is night number two of the fairgrounds case with the missing chainsaw carver statues. We’re going back today to see if we can set up trap cams after they shut the booth down for the night. The footage from last night is pretty compelling stuff. Dan and I believe Tom may have gotten distracted while on duty.

Dan is replacing Tom on the fairgrounds stake out. We’re also rearranging some of the cams from the cemetery to the fairgrounds and vice versa. The cemetery has been a huge bust so far with some minor electromagnetic phenomena and a few notable EVPs. It will be exciting watching both locations from the van as long as Dan doesn’t get arrested.

Additional note from Dan about night number two:

Re: Cemetery next to the fairgrounds- we’ve gotten a few significant EVPs and a few electromagnetic hits, but no sightings or other activities. It’s Tuesday of the Fair and we’re hoping activity will pick up soon.

I’m swapping out with Tom on the stake out of the Chainsaw Carver’s booth. We got permission to put up trap cams under the guise of trying to catch the thieves. Noticed Sutton’s sales assistant, Julie, is big into Wicca. Could there be a connection?

Additional note: Someone removed all of the locks from the mausoleums in the cemetery today. Not sure who it is. His back was to the cameras in every shot. It’s kinda creepy and strange, but so far no other activity to report. Tom and Brenda are going to have their hands full tonight in the van with both sets of cameras reporting in constantly. Doubt we’re getting a lot of sleep.

The next morning, Dan returned to his van, the monitoring center for the operation. Both the driver’s and passenger’s side windows had been smashed with considerable force. There were fist sized dents down the passenger’s side. Brenda and Tom were huddled in the back with rear doors bound tight. Somehow the equipment kept recording.

Tom and Brenda were pretty shaken by what had transpired during the night. It was if two entities wanted into the van. Tom described a wooden fist going through the driver’s side window. Brenda went into shock and needed medical attention, claiming some force wanted her to leave. Tom’s Gopro didn’t capture anything beyond the van shaking violently and windows being smashed. It really did look like a wooden fist with black feathers went through the window.

From Tom’s Journal:
Brenda and I were nearly taken out last night. At about 3:00 AM Brenda suddenly went into deep trance and began bleeding from the nose. A short time later the van started rocking and the windows up front were smashed. Had Brenda been functional, I would have stepped out to confront whoever it was. At least the cameras in the fairgrounds and the cemetery kept going. Hopefully something productive will come from this.

Let’s Talk About: More Classes in DCC RPG.

Here are some classes I’d like to see come into DCC RPG. Please remember Races have their own class in DCC, just like Basic D&D and some other OSR games. Some classes deemed mention in order to be ruled out or suggested as variants within preexisting classes.

One of the few issues I have with Dungeon Crawl Classics and some other OSR games is the lack of variety in the character classes/races.

I know. I know. It’s the Interwebs. I’m sure if we can think of it, someone out there has already done it or something similar. With enough time and digging, I’m sure I can find the magical answer to the question: Has this already been done? I will do that digging later. Then again, “Do yer research,” has some people believing the Earth is flat, so…

Here are some classes I’d like to see come into DCC RPG. Please remember Races have their own class in DCC, just like Basic D&D and some other OSR games. Some classes deemed mention in order to be ruled out or suggested as variants within preexisting classes.

Let’s start with some of the classes from AD&D:

Acrobat: They’re nimble, dodgy and athletic. They may excellent second story burglars. This simple adaptation of Thief would focus on Strength, Agility and mobility in combat.

Assassin: I feel to properly capture this class it would need to be a blend of Warrior and Thief. The variation on this would be Ninja, much as Samurai are an adaptation of Warrior.

Barbarian: Is pretty much just a Warrior with a gnarly attitude and usually some sort of large weapon. Strictly a roleplaying choice unless the Judge wishes to modify it.

Cavalier: Cool as it might be, this class would only be a fit for certain campaigns and maybe be better relegated to a variation on Warrior. Originally I did consider it.

Druid: I have two schools of thought on this and the Shaman. One is they’re just dressed-up Clerics. The second one is, heck yeah. Separate class! Shapeshifting, different spells, different social orders, exciting spellcasting restrictions. Let’s do it! Druids are in tune with nature more than their gods. Maybe they would require a different casting table with new and exciting consequences?

Monk: This is somewhat the Mystic from D&D Rules Cyclopedia. It’s a freaky cross between the Shao-Lin tradition and like a Benedictine monk. I think it has a place in DCC. I suppose an argument could be made for making them a roleplaying variation of Warrior or Cleric. I would give them a little of both.

Paladin: Again, seemed like a cool idea at first, but maybe not. This can be played as a slightly holier-than-thou Warrior or a zealous, more aggressive Cleric. Probably not a good basic OSR choice overall.

Ranger: As I love this class is other games, I’m really tempted to convert this. But, it could just be a very woodsy Warrior or Thief. Again, somewhat like the Mystic from D&D Rules Cyclopedia, living alone in the woods, studying Wizard spells while practicing with a bow and two-weapon fighting, stealth… Yeah. This one has the potential to get out of hand real quick, so probably no.

I think a good case could be made for less powerful versions of the Ranger such as Scout, Archer, or some sort of Dual Wield specialist. It’s ultimately up to the Judge as to whether or not to allow a class to make Warriors almost completely obsolete overnight. Maybe it is best left as a simple roleplaying variation on Warrior, Thief, or Elf.

Shaman: “But Jeff, that’s just another Cleric!” Yes, it could play out that way. But I think it’s a very viable class. For those who remember 2nd Ed AD&D, there were some pretty cool Druid and/or Shaman spells. Shaman would also tap into the spirit world a lot more and their spell table would reflect it. It seems a very viable option to me, but could be a roleplaying variation of Cleric or maybe even Wizard.

Porting a couple of classes in from video game land.

I’d like to see a few classes brought over from newer editions of D&D and/or a couple of my favorite video games.

Necromancer: I would dare say there are a fair number of players from Everquest, Diablo 2 and 3, as well as other games who would eat this up as a class beyond Wizard. A similar argument could be made for Enchanter/Artificer with automatons or suits of magic armor.

Warlock: Take the magic table and make it super harsh. Have some sort of Void beings, Fell hounds, Succubi, or other nasty demons as servants. (*ala World of Warcraft.) Give them supernatural patrons that would make the player’s skin crawl a bit. With great power comes great sacrifice. Maybe not quite so evil, just creepy.

Things I think would be fun to bring in from Blizzard properties:

(Oh don’t sue me. Please don’t sue me…) I would like to see the Diablo 2 AD&D magic item tables converted for DCC. I think it would be fun to give players the Wailing Fiery Broadsword of the Whale, as a made-up example. That way if they find a really cool item, they know it’s legendary. I might work something similar into my game. I also like the idea of using green, blue, yellow, purple, and gold sticky notes with the items on them to denote rarity. Could be fun.

I also think it would be cool to bring in a lot of the spells from both Diablo games and WoW. They’re mostly quickly cast offensive spells for Wizards. The only downsides I could see to this would be failed casting checks and the poor Wizards wearing out rapidly from repeated casts.

“Third wizard this week that had to be put down because he sprouted extra tentacles and an eyeball in the middle of his forehead.” –Bob, Warrior Extraordinaire

I’m sure there could be cases made for bringing in all kinds of things unofficially from other RPGs, video games, and even movies/tv. (Krull’s spiky blade thing, for example.) I’m also giving thought to making my own campaign world where I can slip in a bunch of these character concepts, spells, and items.

Next time, I’ll cover races and possibly a few other class options that might be fun. I appreciate you! Thanks for being here!

Artifacts of the Wolf Lord DCC RPG.

These items will be available after the final boss fight in Room 2-2 in the Catacomb of the Wolf Lord to be released soon. It’s not as easy as one might imagine to obtain one of these items.

I make no aspersions about game balance. Use at your own risk.

These items haven’t been fully tested in DCC. The items are built around the two base classes of Warrior and Thief but could be used by Dwarf, Elf, or Halfling. Please also note the wielders of these items won’t know immediately what they are capable of. Some trial and error may be in order.

These items will be available after the final boss fight in Room 2-2 in the Catacomb of the Wolf Lord to be released soon. It’s not as easy as one might imagine to obtain one of these items.

Both items can easily be adapted to other RPGs, especially OSR games.

Fang of the Wolf Lord:

This sword is forged from the physical fang of the Wolf Lord. It is granted by him to a wielder who he deems worthy. If the owner of the sword dies, the sword magically returns to the Wolf Lord in 1d6 days.

The sword is a short sword, long sword or two handed sword depending on the owner’s preference. It can be stored in the sheath of a dagger when it is not in use. It grows to the full length chosen when drawn.

In any form, it is a +2 Lawful 10 INT, 3 Banes, 3 type 1 powers, 1 type 2 power. 1d12 Special Power. Empathy.

Bane 1: Lycanthropes. +1 Damage Bonus.
Bane 2: Un-dead: +1 to hit and damage
Bane 3: Demons: +1 to hit and damage. (This is not listed in the DCC book.)

Special Purpose: Protect the Weak
Power 1: Detect Evil 1d4x10’
Power 2: Detect Invisible 1/day.
Power 3: Gives the owner Infravision 120’.

Special Power (Not listed in DCC.) Summon Spirit Wolf 1/Day:
Init +5; Atk bite +6 melee (1d6+2); AC 14; HD 3d6 (18hp); MV 40’; Act 1d20; SV Fort +4, Ref +4, Will +3; AL L. Always appears with Max HP. Will follow the instructions of the wielder as long as the Purpose and Banes of the sword are being followed. Disappears for 24 hours if destroyed.

May be summoned again IF the sword deems it necessary.

(Artwork to come)

Cloak of the Wolf Lord:

Granted to a roguish servant of the Wolf Lord. Upon declaring allegiance to the Celestial Pack of the Wolves, this items attunes to the person to whom it was granted. Wearing the Cloak bestows the following:

+3 AC or acts as +3 Hide Armor if none is worn (AC +6, 1d8 Fumble, No Movement penalty.)
+2 to any check involving smell or hearing while the armor is worn.
+2 Sneak Silently
+2 Hide in Shadows* Hide and Sneak bonuses also apply in woodland surroundings with sufficient cover.
Wearer will automatically be regarded as friendly by regular wolves.

More to come! Thanks for stopping by!

Items for use with Dungeon Crawl Classics and other OSR games.

Dungeon Crawling or Role Playing.

Really we were just looking for another dungeon to pillage. These dungeons were filled with deadly traps, epic monster smackdowns and sweet, sweet loot.

What’s the difference?

There was a time, maybe back in the 1970’s -80’s when RPGs were new enough that there wasn’t necessarily a huge difference between running amok in a dungeon and “role playing.” Now I think gaming has spread out into a wide continuum of play styles. On one end, there are the straight dungeon romp for almost no reason whatsoever and on the other end it’s pretty much all character drama. (What combat? Monsters?)

That’s not to dis on either playstyle. I think both have their respective merits. The middle ground is more what most people maybe expect when they start playing D&D.

“Back in my day…”

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It drives my kids nuts when I start a sentence like that because they know they have roused the Old Grognard from whatever I was doing. I grew up in very much the dungeon crawl era of doing things right up through 2nd Ed AD&D. There was some character banter, but most of it was superficial. Really we were just looking for another dungeon to pillage.

These dungeons were filled with deadly traps, epic monster smackdowns and sweet, sweet loot. Any random system of dungeon generation we have now, such as decks of cards with hallways and rooms on them would have worked just fine. Random room, random obstacles, and random loot were the order of the day. Feelings? I’m here to smack some random monsters with a mace.

New editions, new mindsets.

Roundabout the 3rd Ed D&D days, I found more mature players who actually did spend time in character. Soon we were spending more time outside of carefully constructed underground complexes than in them. Soon interactions extended beyond finding the next catacomb to pillage or the next dragon to slay. There was still a fair share of that, but we had tons more character interactions with both the world and with one another at the table.

It was something I had experienced with other games, certainly. Ninjas & Superspies from Palladium was some intense drama at times. Most of the supers games I had run in the past had lots of character stuff and not a heap of combat. Star Wars, well, that still had some beefy combats, but was still character driven.

Werewolf and Cyberpunk 2020 were all character and very little smackdown games. But D&D? That was sort of different having lots of talky and not as much smashy. The spectrum in my D&D games began to widen considerably. Maybe it was the players, or maybe it was the game itself. By the time 3rd Ed came around, there were considerably more character options thanks to something called “Kits” in 2nd Ed. It only grew from there.

I feel like heavy, in-character RP is the “new normal.”

Old Orc by Michael Robson is licensed under CC-BY-NC-ND 4.0

Maybe it was the pandemic. Maybe it’s that players are more mature or have more refined tastes in RPGs now. Or perhaps everyone is trying to emulate a certain popular show on the internet. Virtual TableTop platforms like Roll 20 have been a game changer, too. I also feel like the massive number of actual play podcasts might be changing up how we do things.

Let’s face it. Virtual or podcasts are way more about dialogue. Who wants to watch a bunch of players sitting around rolling dice for four hours? Where’s the drama in that? I feel like the trend is starting to lean toward heavier and heavier roleplay and not so much pillaging ancient tombs regardless. At least that’s what I’m seeing.

We went from the DM saying, “You see an orc.”
And the players saying, “Oooh! I kill it!” (Rolling of dice.) “Huzzah!”
DM replies, “Okay, 7 points of damage kills it. That’s 5XP and 3GP on the body.”

Now it’s more common to find an orc player character or a goblin. The newest batch of rules coming down the pipe is going to pretty much do away with “Monster Races” entirely and just focus on different aspects of races that are unique. How long will it be before they just eliminate the “Dungeons” from the name entirely?

5E changed the game and the way we look at it.

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Character options in 5E, if fully expanded, not considering homebrew, are still staggering. We’re way beyond ability score jokes and class tropes nowadays. (Gone are the days of the Level 1 Wizard tripping down two stairs and returning to character creation. Or the Barbarian who is easily confused by door knobs.) Now if we see an orc wandering down the road in the middle of nowhere, we’re likely to end up in a lengthy discussion of her tragic backstory and cool hairstyle.

I know my age is showing a lot here, but why do we need dice for that? Or even really any kind of RPG rules? Why do we want to slay dragons when we can just have a lovely conversation and the dragon has a light meal. If we’re all going to get along all the time, why even carry weapons or wear armor? We can just send the bard in to “hug” it out with the dragon.

Perhaps I’m being too broad and overly facetious.

I guess it depends on who you ask. There is no one correct play style and it’s always best to talk to the DM before starting a campaign. There’s no sense making a barbarian with tons of combat ability if the group is leaning toward royal tea parties and delicate interactions with Fae folk.

Personally, I like both. Sometimes I’m really just wanting to blow off steam with my players and crush skulls while looting things. Other days, a good royal court drama where almost no dice are rolled can be kind of fun. I know I say it a lot on my blog, but it’s just best to find what will bring the most fun to the group.

Thanks for stopping by. Have fun, regardless. I appreciate you! Have a good one!

Using the Fantasy to Its Fullest

I can’t stress this enough. TTRPGs are a great way to blow off steam. Think about a bunch of carefully painted miniatures on a battle map, slugging it out with sword and spell. D20s and damage dice going back and forth. I would dare say that is far healthier mentally and physically than, say, ambushing and beating the unholy living sh*t out of some kid who bullied us on the playground last month.

There was a time when all I wanted to do was roll dice to punch Orcs in the face and hack Skeletons to tiny bits.

Okay, if we’re being honest, that was yesterday? Earlier this morning maybe? And don’t get me wrong, rolling dice to burn things and blow stuff up still really appeals. It probably always will. (Oh, there’s a “but” coming.)

But, I think the psychology behind some of the more destructive fantasies is worthy of examination. No, I’m not in danger of attracting police attention. Rolling dice and using spells to level buildings is plenty sufficient to keep me off certain watch lists.

So, why all the harshness within TTRPGs?

Maybe it’s an imbalance in the Divine Masculine? Maybe my chakras are misaligned. Maybe it’s an imbalance in my Sacral Chakra? It could possibly be something deeply psychological, and little more.

See, your humble narrator used to get picked on a LOT from the time I was in elementary school all the way through high school. Bullies would ride up to little Jeff and steal his book bag, pull his coat up over his head, or count coup as they rode by to just punch me. Middle school kids can be the most cruel little heathens you can imagine. (I will attest to this now that I have kids of my own at that age.)

That was about the time I discovered roleplaying games. I was 8 or 9 when I was introduced to Marvel Superheroes and Dungeons & Dragons. Ah, good times. That’s where the fantasy took root.

I still got picked on regularly, but now I had a mental outlet for all the pent-up aggression.

Now that I’m older, I think I would have benefited from meditation and all the Zen Buddhism I discovered in high school. I still admire those monks to this day. But, a d20 roll and 1d6 damage had to suffice back then.

The friends I discovered from gaming were true friends. We kinda shared that common “nerd” bond. We played all manner of games where the bad guys got beat sometimes in the most brutal fashion possible. Every one of us enacted some sort of revenge fantasy on orcs (bullies,) goblins (kids teasing us,) and skeletons (general childhood frustrations.) I forgot to mention, Drow were the girls who turned us down and openly mocked us asking for a date. (I had two friends who were big on that one. <cringe>)

The good thing is, NO ONE WAS HURT IN THE REAL WORLD!

I can’t stress this enough. TTRPGs are a great way to blow off steam. Think about a bunch of carefully painted miniatures on a battle map, slugging it out with sword and spell. D20s and damage dice going back and forth. I would dare say that is far healthier mentally and physically than, say, ambushing and beating the unholy living sh*t out of some kid who bullied us on the playground last month.

I hate to use school shootings as another example, but it’s true. Teenagers tend to make a lot of heated emotional decisions that have permanent consequences. Thinking back on it, I could have been one of those kids. Literally. If we’re being totally honest, it’s not like I never thought about it. But I never did it. Cooler heads always prevailed. That was 30+ years ago.

Obviously, that would never, ever happen now. I truly weep in my heart for the kids and families who have suffered at the hands of school shooters and unwarranted gun violence in America. Thank God I and my friends found better ways to channel that aggression without hurting anyone. I sincerely wish more kids would pick up a d20 instead of a gun.

If I’ve learned anything from being an “Old Grognard” it’s that roleplaying can be a good outlet for heroic fantasy.

Supers RPGs such as ICONS are fabulous for making bullies pay for their wrongdoing and making the little guy the hero of the story. That’s sort of the nature of comic books, isn’t it? Science nerd Peter Parker gets bitten by a radioactive spider and gradually becomes a force for epic good. Little Billy Batson says “SHAZAM!” and transforms into a guy with powers rivaling those of Superman. It’s not just about beating up bad guys, but learning what being a hero is all about!

I think that’s the other lesson to be learned here. Our fantasies in any RPG are also a wonderful way to explore all the good things of which we’re capable. Truth, justice, friendship, compassion and freedom are all possible within a game session. Through roleplaying, we can experience life the way we desire it to be. We can try out new personas that are somewhat like our own, but in a way that helps us explore and no one gets hurt.

Have a great day/night wherever you are. Please be kind in the real world. Please be the change you want to see. Thank you for being here. I’m grateful for you.

Power Rangers Threat: Mother Ship.

Mother Ship is very upset about what happened to Saucerhead. She’s here to get revenge on the Rangers before scooping up little Saucerhead and taking him home. Her main objective is to level Bennet’s Cove and find the Ninja Steel Encased Zeo Crystal. Her secondary mission is to retrieve her Lil Saucer Head, who was hurt by those mean old Rangers!

When Saucer Head fell at the hands of the Lightning Force Rangers, the Triumvirate launched an even larger saucer, Mother Ship.

She seriously means business after her sonny boy, Saucerhead fell at the hands of those mean Power Rangers. It’s time to attack!

(Art to come.)

Mother Ship (Giant)
THREAT LEVEL: 15
SIZE: TOWERING | HEALTH: 15
TOUGHNESS: 18 | EVASION: 20
WILLPOWER: 13 | CLEVERNESS: 13
GROUND MOVEMENT: 0 FLY: 40/100 ft.
Mother Ship is very upset about what happened to Saucerhead. She’s here to get revenge on the Rangers before scooping up little Saucerhead and taking him home. Her main objective is to level Bennet’s Cove and find the Ninja Steel Encased Zeo Crystal. Her secondary mission is to retrieve her Lil Saucer Head, who was hurt by those mean old Rangers!
SKILLS:
Brawn d8
Might d8
Targeting: d8*
Flying: d8
Initiative d4
Alertness d6
Diplomacy d6
Languages: Putty, English
PERKS:
Ground Penetrating Probe Ray: +2 CS Bonus when using Perception to detect Saucerhead or the Ninja Steel Encased Zeo Crystal. Also gives Mother Ship an Advantage on detection vs Stealth attempts.

Constantly Airborne: Mother Ship is constantly hovering a minimum of 40′ off the ground.

360 Degree Movement. Mother Ship can perform aerial maneuvers that would turn a normal pilot into pudding.

Self Repairing Sentient Saucer: Mother Ship is capable of regenerating Health at 1 per 10 days when grounded. No need for maintenance hangars or repair crews.

ATTACKS:
3x Primary Beam Cannon Projectors: +d8 Skill. 100’/240′ Evasion Range. 9 Energy Damage. Mother Ship may attack up to 3 separate targets per round or make up to 3 attacks on 1 target.

Secondary Defensive Array: Since Mother Ship is incapable of fighting in Melee, she has a secondary beam array that encompases 360 degrees all around her. Skill d8. 40’/120′ Evasion Range. 5 Energy damage. This attack may be used along with the Primary Beam Cannon Projectors.

Megabeam: 3x per Scene: Instead of 3 separate attacks and a secondary array attack, Mother Ship may opt to combine all of her attacks into one massive swath of destruction. +d8 Skill, 100’/240′ x 40′ square. Evasion. 15 Energy Damage.

POWERS:
Tractor Beam: Mother Ship may use her Brawn to drag or lift objects. 40’/120′ 20′ Square. This power can also be used to dig at the speed of 40’/round.

Repulsor Beam: Mother Ship may use her Might to attack or push objects once per turn. 40’/120′ 20′ Square. Damage 4 Physical

Warp Out: If defeated, Mother Ship can engage her Emergency Jump Drive and flee at the blink of an eye.

Shielding: Mother Ship is considered to have 2 Armor vs incoming attacks. Her Shielding breaks if she suffers more than 9 Health in damage.

Hang-Ups:
Mother Ship is catastrophically irrationally attached to Saucerhead and will abandon everything to recover him/take him to safety.

Her secondary mission is to find the Zeo Crystal and report its location back to the Triumvirate, even if she has to raze Bennet’s Cove in order to do so.

She may be convinced to embrace compassion for the parents in the city below.

Some Sci-Fi Games Off the Beaten Space Lane.

I wanted to go with some that are maybe not as well known as Starfinder. With Spelljammer coming for D&D in August, I wanted to throw some alternatives out ahead of time.

In the mood for a Sci-Fi RPG? Please take a look at these games.

May Fourth’s article got me in the mood for a space game again. There are heaps I could mention. I wanted to go with some that are maybe not as well known as Starfinder. With Spelljammer coming for D&D in August, I wanted to throw some alternatives out ahead of time.

I wish DwD would keep going with this!

Frontierspace by DwD Games. With a new (*highly controversial) version of Star Frontiers on the horizon, Frontierspace is a beautiful tribute to the original Star Frontiers. There’s also a Star Frontiers magazine called Frontier Explorer that was producing exciting new content for Star Frontiers/Frontierspace until it came to a screeching halt recently with Issue 36 Spring 2022 being the last one.

Frontierspace is a solidly written game by fans of Star Frontiers. It’s a bit more of a hard sci-fi game as opposed to space opera in my opinion. Although it is far from the hard sci-fi game that Traveler is. Frontierspace has just enough science crunch without being a lesson in astrophysics and aerospace engineering.

The only kind of downer about this game is that DwD has been quiet for a couple of years now. With Frontier Explorer ending, there’s really not much going on in terms of new material. Many players really enjoyed Star Frontiers and this game really brings back that nostalgia.

Galaxy Prime. A unique specimen.

Galaxy Prime by Epic Age Media. This game actually reminds me a little bit of the original Star Wars RPG. I love the huge selection of playable races in this game. The thing that drew me to this game is the simplicity of the game. There are a lot of neat supplements and scenarios, too.

This game is also beautiful because exploration could be a big part of the game. Space is infinite. One doesn’t necessarily need to stick to the known galaxy. Player Characters can go explore as much as they wish in any game.

The game has kind of that harder Aliens edge in some ways. The politics and racial interactions are a cross between Babylon 5 and early Star Trek. The core book is open enough that the GM could literally determine everything and just play the game as desired. I miss Babylon 5, personally.

I know. ICRPG makes me drool with delight.

ICRPG by Runehammer Games. Specifically Warp Shell. The system is phenomenal. The campaign is very well designed. It’s got kind of a Farscape vibe to it. Warp Shell goes epic if you like. I know I talk about ICRPG a lot on this blog, but it’s because the quality of this game is so good!

System beauty aside, your ship, aka the Warp Shell, has a mind of its own. I once played in a Shatterzone game like this and it was awesome! So, you may never know where you’re going to end up each week. Plus there’s a cool element resembling the Classic Star Trek episode, “The Doomsday Machine.”

Runehammer also has a game called Viking Death Squad which reminds me a bit of Mutant Chronicles and Warhammer 40K.

Hunt the Wicked. Love bounty hunters!

Hunt the Wicked by Sigil Stone Publishing. If you like Mandalorian and/or Cowboy Bebop and want to chase criminals all over known space, then this game is for you! The system is okay. I just like the basic premise of the game.

What’s not to love when you’re running your own company of bounty hunters/mercenaries? Keep bringing in the big bounty heads and keep your crew and yourself afloat. Please, this time- No Disintegrations!

Added bonus: The Quick Start Rules are FREE on DriveThruRPG.

Shatterzone Reprinted by Precis Intermedia. This game was originally produced by West End Games as part of their Masterbook line. One of the main premises of this game is the nigh impenetrable barrier separating the Core worlds from the rest of the galaxy. However, ships have recently figured out how to get through the ‘Zone.

Sign up for a corporation or the mighty Fleet and explore the galaxy. Powered armor, cool starships, interesting species, and fun gear are all part of the adventures. It’s a little bit like Star Wars, and a bit of Cyberpunk. Well worth checking out. Ownership of the MasterBook Rules is helpful, but not entirely necessary with the reprints.

I mentioned Shatterzone because it’s an old favorite that was given new life by Precis Intermedia. These folks have been doing a great job of breathing new life into old games, much like our friends at Epic Age Media above.

Masterfully reprinted- ShatterZone.

I may have to do another article on this particular subject as the five I’ve listed barely scratch the surface of the planet when it comes to sci-fi space gaming. I like talking about some of the smaller games because they’re easier on the wallet, especially in pdf. Off the top of my head, I can think of a dozen more games. I didn’t mention some of the big ones or some of the indie games that cover this subject so very well.

Hope you’re having a great weekend. There’s a whole summer of gaming ahead for many of us. Thanks for being here. Have fun!

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