Spelljammer.

#hadozee controversy and a heap of bad reviews. One D&D is around the corner in 2024. Why would I want to buy the new Spelljammer? Space Hamsters?

I kinda saw this coming.

Why didn’t they learn from this?

I’ve heard multiple reviewers say, “Save your money.” Or, “Maybe look at buying other products.”

In other words, even some of the hardcore YouTubers and other Wizards of the Coast/D&D rah-rah reviewers aren’t into it. I mean, it looks cool. The art is amazing. But the content? Like the actual meat and bones of the campaign setting? Having a good concept does not make for a good game.

RPG family, I’m so sorry to tell you this, but the thing pretty much sucked the first time around. What made us think it was going to be better for 5E? The old content wasn’t that great. Fam, a turd by any other name is still… You can’t put a dress on mule. (Original) T$R made so many other good campaign settings.

If the first time around was bad, (and let’s be honest, it was BAD,) what made them think a remake would fix it? I’m sure someone will quote sales numbers, but I was big into this hobby when it came out and I seem to recall a lot of people panning it then, too. The new version seems to not have gotten any better.

Industry timing leaves a lot to be desired on this one.

New! In a shiny package.

It didn’t help that they announced that in 2024 One D&D is coming. So, basically here’s a new edition that is supposedly going to be retrocompatible with 5E, or at least that’s what they’re saying. They want us to keep being good consumers and continue buying things such as Spelljammer and Dragonlance. WotC also wants us to “playtest” the new rules and provide them with so-called feedback. (Anybody else’s bullshit detector going off?)

If I know WotC, they are eventually going to try to get us to switch completely over to this new edition like it’s the greatest thing since sliced bread. Right now they (WotC) doesn’t want us to sell off our 5th Ed books because Half Price Books can only handle so much. DMsGuild has to stick around long enough for D&D Beyond to evolve.(*I have a feeling being a third party D&D creator is going to change.)

I feel bad for Dragonlance fans right now. Their book is going to be ill-timed at best. Lord only knows what 2023 is going to look like for D&D releases. I mean, we know physical products are no longer high on WotC’s release priorities as far as we’ve heard. Unless we’re talking about Magic cards, then yay physical stuff. Books? Pfft!

What’s the point of releasing products for 5E when it’s going to be on its way out at the end of the year in 2023? Is the next generation of fans going to want to convert all of the 5E material they own into this new shinier One D&D package? What does that say for Spelljammer, Dragonlance and whatever they do in 2023?

One D&D hasn’t even been released and they’re already contradicting themselves.

I know I’m pretty hard on WotC sometimes. They’re the leading company in the industry. With a few brief exceptions, they’ve always been top dog. D&D is pretty much the mother of all roleplaying games. Some would say the industry looks to WotC for direction.

So can someone at WotC or anywhere explain the whole debacle with the Hadozee? Please look up #hadozee on Twitter for the full details. Fair warning: possible racist content. This isn’t the only mistake that was made with the new Spelljammer, but this one came at a really poor time.

Anyone who has been following the sordid tale of Star Frontiers: New Genesis playtest documents knows this isn’t the time to get a bad rep for racism in game publications. It’s bad enough when certain nuts are our there trying to make the hobby look bad. Now the biggest name in the business has to show an utter lack of sensitivity to the topic? Really?

I thought WotC wanted to be progressive. I thought they wanted to set the industry standard. What happened to doing away with negative racial differences in D&D? #hadozee

Anybody remember this little gem from DriveThruRPG/DMsGuild?

Update: D&D Beyond revised Hadozee.

The Hadozee errata.

Good for Wizards of the Coast! They’ve heard the uproar around the slavery element of the Hadozee and removed it on D&D Beyond. At least they’re not completely oblivious to the rpg community. I’m not sure that goes far enough, but it’s a great start.

The only thing that I noticed right away is that it’s still out there in print. Digital media are easy to change. Push the delete button, rewrite a few lines, and poof. Fixed it. But several thousand print copies of the physical book? Oops.

Basically, they deleted all of the content that referred to slavery, removed some offensive art, and issued an apology. Good for them. Better than nothing. I’m sure a LOT of people would have been happy if the offensive text had never made it into the book in the first place.

The other catch is there are still hundreds of print copies out there. It’s still kind of a Public Relations nightmare. Yes, they apologized. The question remains: have they learned anything? At least they’re launching an internal investigation, though…
The apology statement can be found here.

I’m glad no one at WotC actually reads my blog.

Because I’m incredibly disappointed with that company right now. Say what you want about the Old School Renaissance in gaming. At least we knew mistakes had been made well enough to steer clear of them. Call me an “Old Grognard” all day, but I think the kids that put this latest Spelljammer together were seeing dollar signs and little else.

This mistake with the Hadozee has been in print since 1982 by their own admission! How could they have let it slide by? Yeah, I hope WotC’s internal investigation is fruitful.

What are they going to do? Fire the writer from 40 years back? Fire an editor that let it all go by? Pat themselves on the back for a job poorly done? Probably that last part. “Oh, well. Oops. Silly us. Hee hee. Now go buy Dragonlance.”

Editing failure.

I know I drop my share of typos, grammar and punctuation errors here on my blog. I’m not claiming to be perfect. And as an editor, I’m not… uh… Let’s just say dealing with people isn’t my strong suit.

But Spelljammer? C’mon. Really?!? WotC pays these people how much? These “design teams” are so effective. Someone could have walked in off the street and questioned the Hadozee, and yet…

If the McCorporate cultured world of WotC learns anything from this, it’s that the more crap you try to do in committee, the more likely it will FAIL outright. You can hold all the meetings you want. You and have all the little social gatherings in the office you can muster. You can hold hands around the campfire after work. Do you know what matters at the end of the day?

THE F*CKING PRODUCT!!!

It’s lucky for WotC that they have no worries about sucking a loss on Spelljammer. Yay for them. Any smaller company would probably be shitting bricks by now. Not our WotC. They can afford to sweep the whole ugly #hadozee incident under the rug, pretend it never happened, and put out the next piece of trash for all their people to hype up.

DID anybody on that staff stop to think, Hmm. Maybe it’s just possible “Some older content may reflect ethnic, racial, and gender prejudice that were commonplace in American society at that time. ” because they like to remind us of it on DriveThruRPG every chance they get? Seriously? That doesn’t warrant some damn editorial review time??? Which “team” screwed that pooch on this?

I can’t do it anymore. I’m all but done with 5E.

I’m more ready than ever to embrace my old school roots. Pretty sure I have enough OG Dragonlance material to last me a long time should I decide I want to run with it. Don’t even come around me with that Spelljammer business. I’m really looking hard at Old School Essentials again. I think WotC can go a few years without my money again. See you next “edition” on that.

Star Frontiers is welcome. Alternity is welcome. Heck, I’d love to run Amazing Engine again sometime. I won’t be touching Spelljammer with a 10′ space pole any time soon. (*It’s like a regular 10′ pole, only in space.)

I want to find a nice, quiet, smaller company to work for where my work might be appreciated. Give me the peace of mind that I never have to sit in a meeting with a bunch of freakin strangers ever again. Oh, and never will I ever reprint something from the 1980’s without at least reviewing it first.

Onward and upward. Back tomorrow with more gaming excitement. Thank you for stopping by.

Star Frontiers Compared to Starfinder.

I’m not saying one is better than the other. It’s a little bit like comparing BECMI D&D to the most recent version of Traveller. They’ve both got a lot going for them. They’ve both got some flaws.

This is a loose comparison. That is ALL.

I’m not saying one is better than the other. It’s a little bit like comparing BECMI D&D to the most recent version of Traveller. They’ve both got a lot going for them. They’ve both got some flaws.

Obviously, I’ve been around Star Frontiers a great deal longer than Starfinder has been in print. Star Frontiers has been around as long as GI JOE. That’s saying something. Paizo is a relatively new company compared to (Original) T$R.

I’ve played/run a lot of space games. I’ve mentioned several here on my blog before. Star Wars, Star Trek, Starship Troopers, Shatterzone, and Star Frontiers round out my Top 5, but there are so many more. Starfinder would definitely be in my Top 10.

Star Frontiers original cover.

Pros and Cons for both.

Star Frontiers Pros (In no particular order.:)

  • Compact. Other than modules and scattered magazine articles, it’s easily contained in three main books.
  • Fully Developed Ship Combat. Knight Hawks pretty much covers it.
  • OSR. It’s an Old School game in all its glory. They just don’t make it that way any more. Longevity speaks volumes. Developed by some of the biggest names in the RPG industry.
  • Fan material. Egads, there are some seriously dedicated Star Frontiers fans out there. 40 years in and still going strong. Fanzines, modules and fan sites abound!
  • Broad. Wide reaching expanse of systems and beyond to be explored and catalogued aside from what’s in the core books.
  • Simple System. Makes for good beer-n-pretzels gaming. Not a lot of complicated skill lists to try to remember. Combat can be swift, bloody, and easily resolved in theatre of the mind.
Star Frontiers Cons.
  • Zebulon’s Guide. Was actually supposed to be the first of three books. It, umm, well… It flopped. Most fans and critics alike have issues with this book. There were better articles in Polyhedron and Dragon magazines. It’s overall okay, but the rework of the dice system was totally unnecessary.
  • Aesthetic. To me, the game will always look very 2001 Space Odyssey meets Lost in Space or Space 1999. Our ideas about technology and ergonomics have advanced. I always used to laugh at original Star Trek when they were still using giant crescent wrenches in engineering, but by the time Next Gen happened, they had all glass touch screens and beam splitters. Star Frontiers just looks very 1970’s-1980’s.
  • Production Quality. Times have changed. Boxed sets are no longer practical financially. The reprints of Knight Hawks don’t really do it justice. While the nostalgia of playing games with hex maps and cardboard chits is great, (seriously!) It doesn’t hold up next to 3D printed minis and roll-out felt hex star maps. (*Okay, I was spoiled on Babylon 5, Battlefleet Gothic, and Silent Death. Sorry.)
  • Lack of Official Expansion. You get Alpha Dawn, Knight Hawks, and Zeb’s Guide. That’s about it apart from those sweet, sweet, modules and a bunch of magazine articles that are no longer available. Tons of fan material scattered all over the Internet.
  • Pre-OGL. This was released way before there was any real Open Game License in RPGs. Unfortunately, when T$R was bought out by Wizards of the Coast, some of the rights issues with various intellectual properties, art, etc became super tricky. Then there’s “NuTSR” who made an even bigger mess.

    Basically, it’s okay to write all the fan material you’d like as long as you distribute it freely. But if you intend to make any money, this is not the game for you. It’s not like the old T$R crew is hiring for new Star Frontiers designers ever again. Then again, even they abandoned it. Sigh.
  • To be continued, never. Unless something dramatic happens, we’re never going to see a new, official edition of Star Frontiers. There are so many things we would have liked to have seen happen with this game.

I think the skill system in Star Frontiers deserves some discussion. If one is just using Alpha Dawn Expanded Rules, skills are okay-ish. Knight Hawks adds starship skills at great expense. Zebulon’s Guide attempted to rewrite the whole thing and made it more complicated than I think most of us would have liked. -1CS for me, I suppose.

Starfinder banner.

Starfinder Pros and Cons:

In this corner, weighing in at one huge rulebook and more sourcebooks than we know what to do with- Starrrrfiiiinderrr! People keep saying “Just play Pathfinder” when it comes to comments about fantasy games. For a long time D20 Star Wars fans got bombarded with much the same about Starfinder. I haven’t heard anyone say I should give up Star Frontiers for Starfinder yet. It could happen, though.

Starfinder Pros:
  • Rich system mechanics and setting. Even the core rulebook is packed with character classes, alien species, magic, weapons, spaceships, and so much more. The setting is all in pretty much one system, so huge jumps through hyperspace won’t be absolutely necessary until later supplements. However, the worlds one can visit are very well defined.
  • Open License. Anyone can contribute to Starfinder Infinite. It’s possible to get paid for writing more awesome fan material for this game! Plus you can go there and find stuff other fans have done.

    Yeah. Not only Starfinder Infinite, but there are some really cool third party sourcebooks for this game. Personally, I love mecha. There are mecha rules galore. With some kitbashing, I can build the deep space mecha game I’ve always wanted.
  • Fantasy compatible. Pathfinder is Starfinder’s big brother of sorts. What does that mean? Elves in spaaaaace! Yup. Gnomes with laser pistols. Magic. The whole nine yards. It’s cool. Kind of like an old game called Dragonstar.
  • Everyone has a seat: The entire adventuring group can man the guns, computers, shields, and pilot’s chair in starship combat. Your characters are the bridge crew!
  • Galaxy Exploration Manual. This book changed my whole outlook on the game. While the in-system campaign is fun and all, I really wanted to explore the rest of the Universe in this game system. It basically turns Starfinder into Star Trek only with all the magic and giant robot combat.
  • Artwork and Layout. Art sells books. The artwork in Starfinder is outstanding! Plus the layout, borders and typesetting are near perfect. If nothing else, it’s a very attractive set of books.

Starfinder Cons.

  • Stuffed! While I love the diverse, rich, involved game Starfinder is, I gotta say in terms of product (expansions, sourcebooks, etc) it’s a bit bloated. Much like 3rd Ed D&D, there are tons of books for Starfinder and another massive collection of books from third parties. Also like D&D, you just have to pick and choose what you wish to allow as a GM.
  • Thick Core Book. Does anyone else think a 500+ page rulebook seems excessive? It’s no Pathfinder 2E, (700+ pages, same company.) but…
  • Magic?!? You just got fantasy all over my sci fi. You just got sci fi all over my fantasy! Mmm nom nom nom… Two great tastes that sorta go together? Kinda? I would have preferred psionics, technomagic, and maybe have the actual “magic” like OGL D&D spells introduced later. They didn’t even try to fake it.
  • Restricted to one star system. The original game was set entirely in one star system. As I mentioned in the Pros, the Galaxy Exploration Manual fixes this. I see why they did it, but I think a lot of players would prefer space games set in an open sandbox.
  • Starship Combat. Seems to borrow a few pages out of a couple of other games. It’s okay, but then again it’s only okay. Designing a starship is fun. Combat isn’t super lethal, but it’s a good idea for characters to know where the emergency spacesuits and escape pods are just in case of a lucky crit.
  • Price Tag. Unfortunately, the more books a game has, the more expensive it becomes for the completist. You can get by with the core rulebook and some dice. Maybe less if the GM prints a few pages of the pdf and lends you some dice. However, if you want all the freaky alien species, sleek cybernetics, cool starships, big mecha, and so forth, it’s gonna cost quite a bit.

Company Spotlight: The Arcane Library.

Designer Kelsey Dionne is one of the most imaginative, outgoing, creative professionals out there in the RPG market today.

Designer Kelsey Dionne is one of the most imaginative, outgoing, creative professionals out there in the RPG market today.

The Arcane Library has been putting out solid, playable, fun 5E adventures for years now. That said, I highly recommend checking out the website. On top of all of that, Kelsey is working on her own take on D&D called Shadowdark. One other thing I’d like to mention is that Kelsey is highly approachable, or at least more than many other RPG designers/writers.

I was actually introduced to the Arcane Library and Kelsey’s work through a 5E book called The Monstrous Lexicon. If you follow along The Arcane Library website, there are also free adventures such as Temple of the Basilisk Cult along with the email newsletter. Did I mention the YouTube Channel? Kelsey walks you through some of her modules as they come out and gives really great advice on RPG topics.

Needless to say, there’s a lot going on.

I get to exchange emails with Kelsey once in a very great while. She’s been a bastion of good advice and is super helpful to new writers and RPG designers. I was lucky enough to chat with her through email during the year which shan’t be named. Now that Shadowdark is taking off, and it really is, The Arcane Library is super busy.

If you follow the YouTube channel or if you know Kelsey a little bit from convention gaming, you know that horror is kinda her thing. A lot of The Arcane Library adventures have a horror theme to them. Some of them are definitely not for the faint of heart or weak of stomach. They remind me a bit of AD&D 2E Ravenloft. (Which is to say, “AWESOME!”)

As a side note, I invested in the mini-DM Screen and the Combat Cards bundle back when I was still working full time. They’re awesome and I’m still using them when I run 5E.

SHADOWDARK holds a lot of promise.

You can download the quick start rules now. I know I’ve talked before about having a reason for an elaborate dungeon crawl, but Shadowdark really gives adventurers cause to prowl around underground in search of glory and loot! It’s also got a lot of that Old School look and feel to it. I would almost go so far as to say OSR, but without all of the Old Grognard stereotypes attached.

The art, which most writers struggle to find, is exceptional. It’s very old school BECMI with some Call of Cthulhu thrown in. I would also add that if you liked the old FASA Earthdawn RPG, then Shadowdark is well worth checking out.

I’ve even run into people online who mention The Arcane Library and Shadowdark specifically pretty much out of the blue. I was actually surprised when someone who I didn’t think had heard of The Arcane Library was talking about it kinda out of the blue one day. I can’t say who it was out of confidentiality, but I was pretty impressed. Kelsey definitely makes an impression.

The Arcane Library is also active on Twitter and Instagram.

Twitter: @arcanelibrary

Instagram: @thearcanelibrary.

Please don’t just take my word for it! Go check out all of the amazing work for yourself. The Arcane Library RPG experience awaits!

Thanks for stopping by. I appreciate you. I appreciate you taking time out to read what I have to say. Have a great day!

New Review of Another Old Book.

As a basic starship combat game, it’s a great place to learn. For beer-n-pretzels space game action, it’s okay. Your crew might die or go broke fast, but as long as you’re not worried about it, you’ll be fine. However, if the character you’ve been playing for years suddenly eats it on a lucky assault rocket hit? That’s grim.

Let’s talk about Star Frontiers Knight Hawks.

Star Frontiers Day is August 19th. The game is 40 years old this year! To celebrate, I’m giving a review of the classic Knight Hawks Expansion to the Original Star Frontiers game. I have a lot of good things to say about this book and this part of the system.

If you missed out on the first printing, it’s okay. Wizards of the Coast has you covered. It’s still around as a reprint book on DriveThruRPG minus the maps, counters and cool box. You can still print the counters and the maps from the PDFs, though. If you want to go all out, I hear the lead miniatures for the ships are still floating around out there in the world, but may be decaying slightly.

It’s a classic head-to-head space battles game on top of being an RPG supplement.

I’ve played a lot of space games over the years. I think my favorite is still Starfire, but I also enjoyed Silent Death, Babylon 5, Battlefleet Gothic, Starfleet Battles, and Starfleet Tactical. Reading the Klingon Tactics in Starfleet Tactical prepared me for space battles later in life. Lol! I would say Knight Hawks ranks right up there with the best.

Overall, it’s a simple combat game. I kinda feel sorry for the RPG crew if their ship gets blown to smithereens during a tactical game. Knight Hawks can definitely be lethal to ships in terms of space battles.

Its rudimentary movement and damage systems are great for beginners.

For those unfamiliar with space battle games, Knight Hawks offers up a great starting point. Movement is straightforward. Ships have a maneuver rating and an ADF number to determine how much it can speed up or slow down on its turn. There are optional rules for planets, gravity wells, etc.

Shooting weapons and raising defenses requires a bit of reading. Not all guns shoot in all directions. Some have different ranges than others. Some work better against certain defenses. It pays to know the capabilities of one’s ship before the start of the battle. This system is simple enough that it can handle large fleet engagements once players get to know the rules a bit.

The advanced rules contain tidbits such as variable damage table, fires aboard ships, repairs, and new ship types. It gives a great basic spread of ships and how to fly them. The rules do not require a PhD in Rocket Science to know how to use them. Basically, make sure you read the ship’s stat block. The rest is fairly intuitive.

Cover of the RPG and galactic content half of Knight Hawks.

What about the roleplaying aspect?

This is what some of us old timers think was missing from Alpha Dawn. Until Knight Hawks, most campaigns were ground based. It was all away team missions and no real flying around, to use Star Trek as an analogy. The Campaign Book Expansion Rules fix a lot of what was previously missing.

With this expansion, ship design and construction become options. The freedom and independence every spacefaring adventurer dreams of are available at a hefty price. Acquiring a ship for the group could potentially involve mortgaging the family farming planet to the hilt. There are other suggested methods aside from buying a ship, but all of them come at some price to the characters eventually.

My biggest beef with the system so far are the skills.

Starship skills don’t require the standard Primary and Secondary classifications that the main Star Frontiers uses. That’s good because the space game came after Alpha Dawn and it would have been more confusing. However, starship skills cost more experience points. Yeesh. It’s almost as if they didn’t want player characters having a ship.

I’ll discuss this further when I talk about Zebulon’s Guide to Frontier Space in another article. I think the writers realized that the skill system didn’t quite work out. Unfortunately Zeb’s Guide didn’t quite fix the whole thing. Knight Hawks just introduces the starship skills. It’s an okay start I suppose.

I think there’s a bit of a divide between the tactical game and the RPG.

For one thing, ships are pricey in game. If the group’s ship gets into a battle with much of anything larger it might well not survive. That means there’s a pretty good chance the crew might get squished in the process. It makes most space combats an escape or chase situation similar to the Millenium Falcon vs Star Destroyer scenario.

The wargame portion is great for what it does. The RPG portion is great for interstellar travel and background information about the setting. I don’t know if it would run scenarios from other games well. For example, I don’t think Battlestar Galactica or Babylon 5 space battles would work well under the Star Frontiers Knight Hawks rules. The scale of battles ramps up very steeply and rapidly becomes more prone to Star Trek style battles with the capital ships/space stations.

I still give it 3.5-4 out of 5 stars. It’s a good start.

As a basic starship combat game, it’s a great place to learn. For beer-n-pretzels space game action, it’s okay. Your crew might die or go broke fast, but as long as you’re not worried about it, you’ll be fine. However, if the character you’ve been playing for years suddenly eats it on a lucky assault rocket hit? That’s grim.

Thanks for stopping by. Keep rolling on the Frontier. I appreciate you!

New Review of an Old Book.

One thing I’ve always found fascinating about this game is the Basic Rules waste no time jumping right into the action. Here’s the basic races. You’re an adventurer in space. Here’s attributes and how they work. Here’s how to shoot stuff and drive land vehicles. Have at it. It’s a beautifully short, uncomplicated, and gets right into why many of us buy RPGs- fun!

Welcome back to the Frontier!

I recently acquired the reprint copies of Star Frontiers Alpha Dawn, Star Frontiers Knight Hawks Expansion, and Zebulon’s Guide to Frontier Space. They even still have the old T$R logo on the binding. How cool is that?

Yeah, I get pretty geeked about these things.

I’ve been listening a lot more to Tom Verrault’s Star Frontiers Gamer on YouTube. He’s gotten me interested in this old, classic RPG of yesteryear. This game brings back a lot of good memories for me playing with a couple of friends in high school. I think Star Frontiers still has a lot of life in it for being a classic as well as an OSR (Old School Revival) game. I’m tentatively planning on introducing my kids to this game some day, but it may end up being a solo endeavor. Unless I can figure out a time and start a group, which… yeah.

Starting with Star Frontiers Alpha Dawn.

This game was originally a boxed set, back when T$R was putting all of their good stuff out as boxed games. (I.E: Marvel Superheroes, Top Secret S.I, B/X D&D, and Star Frontiers.) I still have my old boxed set minus the dice. The reprint comes as a softcover book and/or PDF from DriveThruRPG. You have to find your own d10/d00 dice. (But how easy is that? I mean they are special math rocks and all.)

One thing I’ve always found fascinating about this game is the Basic Rules waste no time jumping right into the action. Here’s the basic races. You’re an adventurer in space. Here’s attributes and how they work. Here’s how to shoot stuff and drive land vehicles. Have at it. It’s a beautifully short, uncomplicated, and gets right into why many of us buy RPGs- fun!

Beyond some basic equipment, a couple of short scenarios, the basic rules also explain how to design your own creatures and adventures. I always found this kind of odd when the Referee isn’t introduced until the Advanced Rules. It’s kind of an all-in gonzo affair in the Basic game. They give you a character sheet for this game, but even the advanced examples they give later on could fit on a hand written index card.

Alpha Dawn Expanded Rules.

The Expanded Rules are where we get to see more of what we think about when we see a modern RPG. This is where the real meat and bones of the setting lay. Here we get a lot more about “What is a Role Playing Game?” and info about what the various character races look like, etc. There’s a lot more about movement, weapons, equipment and a tiny bit about space travel.

One of the more critical components of the game is introduced in the Expanded rules. Skills are a good thing in any game for helping develop a character. Alpha Dawn said very little about Starship Skills, however. We get Military, Technological, and Biosocial skills. Pick one primary and one secondary skill. Don’t expect miracles in the early levels unless your dice roll especially low.

One thing I really love about this game is the simplicity of the dice. It doesn’t get much more basic that percentage numbers and a roll-under system. You usually either succeed or fail depending on the roll. There’s little ambiguity with the dice system for this game, leaving a lot of breadth to describe a character’s actions. Leveling skills is a bit tedious with this system, but liveable.

The Expanded Rules give us a bit about the setting for Star Frontiers. It’s vague enough for the Referee and/or enterprising third party writers to fill in many of the blanks and customize the game. It’s specific enough to get the Referee and group rolling with some rough-and-tumble space adventures.

One interesting note about the setting- there’s no Earth. Humans are evolved and highly skilled, but their homeworld isn’t Earth. There’s a Planetary Federation, but this ain’t Star Trek. Earth is speculated to have been the home of Gamma World in this setting, but I don’t think it was ever officially confirmed.

The “alien” beings in the setting aren’t warm and fuzzy by any means. The Dralasites, Vrusk, and Sathar are far from humanoid in the traditional sense. There’s also a D&D style collection of creatures, so we can travel to new planets and potentially be eaten by them. Woot!

The Expanded Rules include a really nice Referee section. It covers/expands on creature creation, world building, and adventure creation. There’s a short bit of basic advice on running a game here which is still solid even today. The adventure creation section, although brief, is also packed with a lot of good basic advice.

They give you everything from the boxed set except the dice.

There’s a really nice adventure with this book called, “SF-0 Crash on Volturnus.” The introductory adventure would go onto become the first in a series of modules for the game. It’s a good starting adventure. Authors included T$R luminaries, Tom Moldvay and Doug Niles. It’s a good starting adventure for starting Referees to really get their feet wet in the game system.

There’s a really nice reading list included in the game. Much like the one you see for D&D elsewhere, it’s got a lot of books to really get the reader into a sci-fi gaming mood. I also had to laugh because there are old ads for the RPGA, Dragon magazine, and Amazing Stories listed. Ah, nostalgia.

Overall, I give it 5 stars out of 5. I think a lot of modern games could take a page or two from Star Frontiers. It’s a good old school game that encourages a LOT of imagination on the part of all players and the Referee.

If anyone ever brings this game back officially, I hope they keep the flavor similar to this old game. It’s so open and easy to work with. If you didn’t have a specific creature or game mechanic? You just make it up. Good times.

Reviews of Knight Hawks and Zebulon’s Guide are in the works. I’m also working on a review of Paizo’s Book of the Dead for Pathfinder 2E so people don’t think I’m a stuffy old codger who only does OSR retro gaming. (LOL!)

Thank you for stopping by. Hope your week is going well. I appreciate you!

G.I. JOE the RPG Review.

In honor of our hard workin, hard fightin real life American heroes, I thought I’d do my long overdue review of GI JOE the RPG from Renegade Studios. I have literally waited 40 years for this game to be made officially.

HAPPY FOURTH of JULY!

In honor of our hard workin, hard fightin real life American heroes, I thought I’d do my long overdue review of GI JOE the RPG from Renegade Studios. I have literally waited 40 years for this game to be made officially. It’s at the top of my list next to Power Rangers and Transformers. I was so stoked when I saw these three games on Kickstarter a couple of years ago.

The dream has been realized minus Transformers. I see it’s been moved to Q04 of 2022. (What the heck, guys?) I mean, how many of us want to someday realize the GI JOE/Transformers crossover we’ve been dreaming about for decades? I know I’m not alone.

I think nostalgia is the primary appeal of GI Joe. All of us who ever ran games from other systems who always wanted an official Joe RPG for the last 40 years or so finally got our wish. I was pleasantly surprised to see a lot of my old favorite characters, vehicles, and weapons from the action figures and the cartoon in print.

This has been four decades in the making. YAY!!!

Essence20 keeps getting better.

Renegade is becoming a very solid company when it comes to game design. I still think Power Rangers RPG is a little shaky under the same system, but the writers have gotten better with GI Joe. Everything flows together with the system so far and I’ve had no hiccups creating characters thusfar.

Renegade also provides downloadable character sheets and prefilled sheets for some noteworthy characters such as Duke and Scarlet. My hat’s off to the writers for being more ready up front with this game. It’s very well put together.

Combat can be as cartoony or as meaty as you’d like.

I was glad to see the discussion of weapon damage being a group consensus. The group can decide to treat it like the 1980’s cartoon with the pew-pew lasers set on stun and parachutes that always deployed. Or they can make it gritty and realistic like a more modern military style game where getting shot is serious business and vehicles can explode with all occupants aboard.

Combat is a key element in this game and I’m glad to see a fairly thorough treatment throughout the book. Weapons are customizable. The vehicles are as cool as any toy playset ever made. Personally, I’m excited to see characters in jet packs and Trouble Bubbles.

The diversity of character options is stunning.

If you ever saw a character in the cartoon that you wanted to emulate or have a particular fan fiction character you want to play, this system has it covered. The same goes for Cobra, though. Anything the GM ever wanted to see Cobra get correct, they can do now. No more incompetent Cobra Commander or bumbling minions unless that’s how you want to play it.

The other neat thing is the sheer amount of character volume included in the core rules. You get to fight alongside Joe luminaries such as Duke, Snake Eyes, Sgt Slaughter, Jinx, Quick Kick and so many, many more. They even went so far as to give a full page treatment to the ones they didn’t have room for in the Core Book.

Oh no! They missed my favorite character! No worries.

One really nice touch they did throughout the game was the “Knowing is Half the Battle” segments that further define a rule or clarify a lot of potential questions. Another great moment came when I found the Perk: Kung Fu Grip. They even mention the historic origins of the name and Yo Joe! is a legitimate battle cry with in game effects. (Kind of like saying It’s Morphin Time or Autobots, Transform and Roll Out.)

I know I've mentioned before that art sells RPG books. The GI JOE RPG has some of the most gorgeous artwork of any RPG ever produced. Admittedly, they might have had a slightly easier time given the volume of art for the animated series and comics that accumulated over the years, but still. This game looks great! Good job team! 

If I was ever waffling on whether or not to by this book, the layout and presentation along with the gorgeous artwork sells it. 

The only thing I hope and pray for Renegade to do-

Renegade folx, if you see this, please hear my pathetic begging. There needs to be a sourcebook with more of the original Joes statted up. Of course there needs to be an extensive book of all the Joe vehicles. Please, please, please give us a solid Cobra sourcebook complete with characters, vehicles, weapons and cool science projects. If you really wanted to make this fanboy happy, please make a Sigma 6 sourcebook.

I give it 5 stars. Keep up the awesome work! Can’t wait to see Transformers.

Thank you all for stopping by. I appreciate it. Have a happy and safe holiday!

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!

Big Day Yesterday

I love that some of the older playable races are once again featured and revised. We see the presence of the Aasimar, Eladrin, Genasi, Goliaths, and Shifters. Yay!
We also get to play around with several anthropomorphic races such as the Tabaxi (Cat people,) Harengon, (Bunny folk,) and Tortles (Turtle folk.)

Mordenkainen’s Monsters of the Multiverse dropped finally.

Unless you picked it up as part of the holiday gift set or acquired it digitally from D&D Beyond, the book finally made an appearance on the 17th. I’m excited to do more of a detailed review later. Right now I’m excited by what I’ve seen at first glance.

Big changes to the way we create characters on the horizon from what I can see here.

Gone are the days of ability score bonuses or penalties for different races. You may either increase a single attribute by +2 and another by +1 OR do +1, +1, +1 across three different attributes. There are still no penalties. Long gone are the days of the frail elf or puny halfling. Why shouldn’t a fairy have an 18 STR? Seems really logical.

I really like the included racial traits. It’s a grab and go as opposed to an ala carte situation as was originally rumored. (*People who’ve had the book since January are mocking me right now.) I’m happy for that because it takes some of the confusion out of character creation.

Bunnies and turtles and Gith, oh my!

I know most of the races presented are from other books, but I wanted to call attention to a couple of things. I am absolutely thrilled to see certain races which I’ll get into in just a moment. Not to sound racist irl, but I think there are also some very questionable choices in their selection of in-game PC races.

I love that some of the older playable races are once again featured and revised. We see the presence of the Aasimar, Eladrin, Genasi, Goliaths, and Shifters. Yay!

We also get to play around with several anthropomorphic races such as the Tabaxi (Cat people,) Harengon, (Bunny folk,) and Tortles (Turtle folk.) Of course everyone’s favorite bird races are represented as well with the Aaracokra and the Kenku. That’s all well and good. I love cat girls and bunnies. (I’ll be the first to admit I’m a bit of a furry sometimes. Lol!)

That’s where my love affair with the various races pretty much ends. Minotaurs are in Dragonlance and are kind of a tip of the hat to WoW’s Tauren. Okay. We get Orcs and Goblins in other games, sure. Why not?

But then we get into territory that I think is going to be omitted or at least discussed heavily in my campaign. Bugbears? Hobgoblins? Lizard Folk are known in my campaign for being involved in a lot of very bad stuff. Yuan-Ti are likewise considered bad news if encountered.

And the Gith?!? Even if they weren’t overpowered, are considered “monsters” in the classic sense of the word in my world. I’m sorry, but I don’t believe every monster race in the books should be welcome in every civilized fantasy society. Not every inn in the game has to look like the famous Mos Eisley cantina from Star Wars.

I don’t know about other DMs and what they allow necessarily. I’ve been in games where certain races are pretty much TOS (Terminate On Sight. Thanks G-Unit.) Duergar, Kobolds, Bugbears, Hobgoblins and anything reptilian would be shot on sight or chased away from human, elf, or halfling settlements. No, it doesn’t have to be that way in every campaign and there certainly could be a rare outcast from Gith or Bugbear society, but in most games I’ve been in, it would be hella rare.

*DISCLAIMER* Please note! It is NOT okay to treat people like crap in the real world for any reason. Please be kind and understanding when it comes to race, gender, sexual preference, age, and any other form of diversity in the real world! It’s okay to explore some concepts in fantasy, but keep it on the table. The real world is tough enough without us making life harder on ourselves.

Please do whatever you want in your campaign. My opinion is just that- an opinion. What I do in my games may vary dramatically from what others allow/disallow. Whatever is most fun for you and your group? Do THAT!

The rest of the book, the monsters- are phenomenal!

What makes Mordenkainen’s Monsters of the Multiverse stand out are the particularly nasty creatures contained therein. I’m not going to list off all the monsters here. I’m sure there’s a Table of Contents posted online somewhere.

What I will say is that I’m stoked to see some of the things from older supplements find their way into 5E. We get a huge spread of demons, devils and fiends to torment the PCs with. A lot of the undead types are throwbacks to other editions. Elementals play a huge role in the Multiverse.

I’m most impressed with the interplanar monsters from the Fiend Folio making a comeback. I used to use some of these creatures back when and I’m excited they’re officially back. Bodak, Draegloth, Froghemoth, Howlers, Leucrotta, Quicklings, and Rutterkin are statted out and ready to go again. I couldn’t be happier about it.

It’s also nice having some of the quick reference blocks like Bard and Warlord as examples. Being able to insert an Archdruid or any other premade NPC stat block at a glance is a nice touch. We can always go back and alter specifics later. I like having things like this handy when players put me on the spot.

I’m hoping Planescape or something similar is on the horizon.

I would really like to see WotC do more with the various planes and planar travel now that this book is in hand. I’m happy to see many of my old favorites such as the Astral Dreadnought and the Giff back again. IIRC the Giff were actually first featured in Spelljammer, but I might be wrong? I don’t normally do a lot of plane-hopping in my games, but this really does bring back that Manual of the Planes feel.

This also makes me question whether Spelljammer may actually be worth a look now. Originally I said, “No” when I saw Spelljammer. If the delivery on the Spelljammer books are this excellent in quality, I might reconsider at least enough to pick up the monster book.

So much going on here and elsewhere. So much goodness!

Thank you for stopping by. I had more I wanted to discuss, but the new Mordenkainen book really stood out today. Heck, I’m probably not getting back to 5E until summer, but now I’m excited to DM again. Have a great week!

I appreciate you!

Anime 5E Review.

Anime 5E is here! Due to hit the shelves of your FLGS sometime around June 1. I backed it on Kickstarter and it’s brilliant!

As JJ Walker would say, this book is, “Dyn-O-Mite!”

Anime 5E is here!

Back before my employment status changed, I invested in several Kickstarters. This one in particular was very worth the money. Tired of regular 5E D&D? Dyskami fixes that and then some with Anime 5E.
Here’s the link for DriveThruRPG

Here’s the link for Dyskami’s website

Just a brief rundown of some of the things you’ll find:

My oldest is going to freak when he finds out he can play a cat person in my game.
  • New character race options: Neko, Kodama, and even Greys!
  • New character class options: Ninja, Samurai, Magical Girl, Pet Monster Trainer and more!
  • New character size options. Play it small or huge. Either way, it’s covered.
  • So many new character options in and out of combat, I can’t list them all.
  • New magical and non-magical gear. What book would be complete without it?
  • New monsters. That’s what sold me along with some other concepts.
  • High-Flying, kick-butt anime/manga action from the minds that brought us the original Big Eyes, Small Mouth.
  • A solid mix of classic Tolkien-esque fantasy action combined with crazy anime fantasy action. Run a game in the style of Record of the Lodoss Wars, Naruto, Ninja Scroll, Afro Samurai, Samurai Champloo, Inu Yasha, Sailor Moon, Ranma, Pokemon and so many more.

I was a fan of this project way before it came about.

I’m a long, long time BESM fan. I’ve followed it since First Edition, no less. Third Ed was hard to get a hold of, but I finally did. I’ll write a broader BESM review in the future. I have a lot of wonderful memories and fond moments with BESM and it’s one of my favorite games to work with.

The same can be said of good old D20 BESM. Anime 5E took the raw Rules As Written and turned them into something phenomenal as only the creators of BESM could. I understand anime is as much styles as rules sets, but they added to D&D 5E in new and intriguing ways.

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention this from early in the book.
This is pretty cool.

I love the attitude. The look of the product throughout is phenomenal. Really, I don’t know much else they could have added.

Old fans of my previous blog know I don’t use the term “alien” because it is offensive to many beings. I’m a friend to any being from another world who wishes to visit Earth. Now, if you’re wondering why I mention it in the gaming review of Anime 5E, it’s because one of the player races included is the Greys.

If I make one character to play this game, it’s going to be one of these guys. I think they’re pretty cool. I mean, not Magical Cat Girl cool, maybe, but still pretty friggin sweet!

I may not put out any material for this game any time soon, being entangled in three solid projects and possibly adding a fourth. This book really takes the frustration out of 5E and makes it fast, loose, and playable again. Hiyah!

Thanks for stopping by. I appreciate you. I hope you’ll give Anime 5E a chance.

It Has Arrived!

So, briefly- ICRPG is simple, adaptable to any setting, brilliantly designed, and has revolutionized games outside of itself.

My copy of Index Card RPG Masters Edition finally arrived today!

Snoopy vulture.
c/o United Features Syndicate.

Probably not the most monumental thing to ever happen in the world. But it’s exciting for me! A short while back, Hankerin Ferinale announced that ICRPG Masters Edition was going to be available as Print On Demand from DriveThruRPG. This was awesome! Monumental!

No offense to the nice folks at Modiphius, but I really didn’t have the scratch to buy the $50 hardcover plus shipping. I’ve noticed our FLGS don’t readily carry it. (I checked stores in two states, sadly.) $50 is a lot of money for me these days.

So I ordered it online and the wait began. I perched on our mailbox day and night waiting for it to arrive. This happened with Mecha Hack as well because I love the Brandish Gilhelm (aka Hankerin) artwork. The artwork is only matched by the brilliant game design. ICRPG never disappoints.

I loved the last edition of ICRPG so much. I was overjoyed Runehammer (aka Hankerin, aka Brandish) had made this book available for almost a third of the hardcover price. Of course, I poured over the pdf like crazy, but I love a physical copy of any game, especially this one.

Full confession: I’m biased toward ICRPG and have been since I discovered the game years ago.

So, briefly- ICRPG is simple, adaptable to any setting, brilliantly designed, and has revolutionized games outside of itself. Masters comes with ICRPG Worlds built into it. This game gave us Old Grognards a new way to look at adventure, room, and combat design. Hankerin is clearly a veteran of many RPG campaigns in several genres and it shows in the way ICRPG is written.

The Index Card portion of the name is legit on several levels. It’s a good way to organize as a GM. The game literally encourages this. It’s a brilliant way to keep track of rooms, traps, monsters, spacecraft… You get the idea. Professor Dungeon Master of YouTube fame has latched onto this game and for good reason.

I’m so happy! It finally arrived!!! Worth the wait.

My own campaign settings will be getting dusted off soon.

The nice thing about Masters is that the actual mechanics haven’t changed too much. I’m looking to pull out my ICRPG samurai campaign and maybe putting it out soon. I’ve contemplated a few other games using these rules as well. My meager artistic skills are not as impressive as Brandish’s, though.

ICRPG is a dream to run and create more content for GMs. I really can’t say too many good things about it. Players can pick up these rules in less time than D&D 5E or faster if they’re familiar with any D20 game.

I rely on Bitmoji and stock art for a reason. LOL!

Thanks for stopping by. I appreciate you! Please try ICRPG if the opportunity presents. It really is worth a try.

Also, thank you Runehammer for putting out such an awesome game. I can’t tell you how much fun I have designing game worlds for this system. Your hard work makes a lot of joy possible. You rock!

%d bloggers like this: