Friday, July 6, 2018

Idea for armor: DR dice

Has this been done?  I recently had an idea that seems so obvious that I'm surprised I haven't heard of it being used before.

I freaking love Game of Thrones!  HODOR!

I've played around with DR (damage resistance) for armor in games before, and it always runs into some problems.  In case this concept is unfamiliar to you: DR is a way of representing armor and other forms of toughness by reducing damage to an enemy by a fixed amount. Although it ostensibly seems more realistic than something like D&D's AC (armor class) mechanics, there are places where DR breaks down.  

Empress (4th edition)

OK, so having editions for my own personal heartbreaker (much less using them here) is a little silly, but it helps me keep track of it for my own reference.  So when I glance at this post in the future, I can instantly determine exactly how out-of-date it is.

Follow the link in the caption below!

She's back!

I'm not going to assume that you're familiar with the first three editions, so why don't I summarize what makes Empress a little different from a D&D retroclone?


  • There are four abilities instead of six; they are Strength, Agility, Mind and Spirit.  Strength encompasses physical toughness and Agility includes physical stamina (i.e. athleticism).  Spirit marries charisma with spiritual fortitude.  Mind folds perception into intelligence.
  • Each PC has a Luck Die.  You can roll this to boost your own rolls, but that causes it to temporarily drop to a lower die face.
  • Strength affects AC instead of HP, and Agility modifies HP instead of AC!
  • Rolling high above AC let's an attacker apply combat feats, and they don't sacrifice the damage from the attack...sort of like Special Effects in Mythras.

Race and Class

  • The only PC "race" is human, and there are only three classes: Warrior, Magician and Specialist.
  • Instead of skills, characters choose specializations.  These are broad areas of expertise, and provide a big one-time bonus to all activities that are governed.
  • Example specializations: Animal Handling, Stealth, Bushcraft, Athletics, Tinkering, Languages, Lore, Contacts.  Note that even the last three are not differentiated by sub-skills - they are all-encompassing.
  • Most characters only have one or two specializations, but Specialists get a lot more.  Plus, they choose one specialization to keep improving as they gain levels.
  • Warriors gets lots of HP as usual, but also, they are the only class to get better at hitting things as they level up.


  • Any character can learn magic, but Magicians are much better at it.
  • There are three types of spells: Mystical, Sorcery and Alchemy.
  • Any spell may be of any type; the type determines the cost of magic.
  • Mystical spells can be cast very quickly with concentration, but they are very fatiguing.
  • Sorcery spells take a very long time to cast.  A small number of castings may be stored in foci, like wands or amulets, for instant release.
  • Alchemical spells take a long time and a lot of resources to cast.  What they produce are agents - potions, powders and other gizmos - that can be used to produce a magical effect at a later time.
Exhaustive, or exhausting?  You be the judge!  Feel free to make comments or ask questions here.

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Review: Mutant Crawl Classics Role-Playing Game

Anyone who regularly (or periodically) visits this blog knows that I'm a big fan of DCC.  I've reviewed DCC materials in this blog, not to mention the fact that I went to Gen Con last year to GM a bunch of DCC sessions (and I'm slated to do it again this year).  

So you'd expect me to be the ideal customer for Mutant Crawl Classics, Goodman Games recent RPG set in a post-apocalyptic world.  Heck, I Kickstarted it last year, pledging enough for a hardcover rulebook plus a print block of the first eight adventures/supplements.  So I'm all in, right?

Fun in the PA

Well, I've got some bad news for you.  Cutting to the chase: I'm not very happy with MCC.  It's not unsalvageable, but if you expect MCC to be the ode to role-playing perfection that is DCC, then you will be woefully disappointed.

What is this?  Say it ain't so!  Sorry, folks, it's so.

Sunday, May 6, 2018

Well hello there

Been a while, huh?

It's not that I haven't been active on the RPG front.  Far from it.  Very far from it, in fact.  It's just that I haven't been able to get off my ass to write about it.  After all, it typically involves a lot of writing in the first place.

So why don't I just run through stuff on my RPG radar?

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

The Sandbox and the Railroad - then and now

Been a while, huh? Well, that's life in the OSR blogosphere! It's been a pretty happy holidays here at chéz A& gaming loot for x-mas or my birthday, but that's OK.  I'm a big boy now, and I buy my own games. I'm already pretty gamed-up here.

Anyway, I picked up a mess of interesting games recently.  Too many to read, much less catalog in a single post. And that also includes a sprinkling of Steam games (you may have heard about the winter sale, no?).

Apparently, I haven't played all the games...

And from that material I draw the topic of this post i.e. comparing sandbox/railroad concepts between then and now. Specifically, I'd like to compare two very different games: Shadows Over Bögenhafen, the classic Warhammer Fantasy adventure, and The Escapists 2, a recent videogame.

Weird comparison, huh?

Thursday, December 14, 2017


So I took part in an interesting thread on the DCC G+ group today.  It's one of those perennial OSR discussions about "race-as-class," which is all fine and dandy, but Von Ether half-jokingly raised the idea of "human-as-class"...and that gave me a bunch of ideas.

Basically, humans tend to be the individualistic and practical explorers in a lot of know, Space Americans. Other races are assigned these far more specialized and homogenized cultures that represent only small facets of our lifestyle. I'm talking about lazy Star Trek tropes like the eternally-warlike Klingons and coldly rational Vulcans.

Watch out for Space Americans, man

The same is often true of various demi-human races in fantasy settings, to an extent.  So not only are these mythological entities scrubbed clean of mystery by allowing players to run them, but they are further constrained by unimaginative stereotypes.  Dwarves are grumpy, greedy, industrious and proud.  Elves are elegant and aloof, often advanced but in decline. These lazy cliches have had all the life stamped out of them since Tolkien.

But what if humans were the strange and threatening aliens who belong to a heavily-stereotyped culture?  I proposed two possibilities in the thread: humans-as-orcs and humans-as-elves.

Friday, November 17, 2017

My own private Anomaly

I've mentioned here before how I've adapted Patrick Wetmore's brilliant Anomalous Subsurface Environment for my house campaign.  Or rather, I'm mentioned that I've adapted it, if not how.  Which is mostly fair, since I didn't start out with any major changes besides the stats and mechanics.  After all, I had a rationale to explain that the party traveled to the Land of One-Thousand Towers from their homeworld, allowing the two settings to be almost entirely distinct.  In other words, there was no need to figure out how to integrate ASE into my home setting.

I dig the metal bard in the lower right corner wailing on his ax

Given that I've been moving to a somewhat more ad hoc approach to GMing (perhaps better described as just-in-time design i.e. desperate brainstorming the night before and not a moment earlier), it makes sense that I didn't bother to think about things in great detail.  I'm into a more organic approach to world building, although I'm careful to avoid the pitfalls of illusionism.  Suffice to say, my approach was to just start with straight-up ASE and let it evolve from there.

And evolve it has.  At this point, some of the heretofore unimagined backstory is starting to coalesce.  I now know a lot more about what makes this world tick.  I know why wizards are all insane, and why their magical tools don't work after they are killed.  I know what happened to the ancient civilization that discovered/created the ASE.  Heck, I even know what the ASE is.  

At least, now I know all these things in the context of my own campaign.  And I'd like to share it with you.  It all started to come together when I tried to imagine a reason that my players might venture forth from Denethix to visit a distant village by the name of Carrowmere...