Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Stat Up the Characters from the "Long Long Man" Ads

That's right! Let's crowd-source some RPG stats for the characters in Sakeru Gum's "Long Long Man" ad campaign. You can use whatever system you like to generate Chi-chan, Tooru-san, and Long Long Man; just post your stats in the comments section.

Monday, April 9, 2018

The Stupidity of Boob Armor

Because it's never a bad time to remind people how ridiculous boob armor really is ...

Monday, March 26, 2018

[Uncharted Worlds] Kylara Vatta

I'm currently blowing my way through Vatta's War, Elizabeth Moon's five-volume series about the adventures of Kylara "Ky" Vatta, Space Academy dropout and merchant trader scion. (This is so I can get up to speed before starting Cold Welcome, the first book in the new Vatta's Peace series.) I don't want to give away any spoilers, but I can say that the Ky Vatta who appears at the beginning of Trading in Danger (the first book in the series) is a perfect starting character for Uncharted Worlds (or pretty much any other SF RPG).

Vatta's home planet, Slotter Key, provides her with a Productive Origin. (Given the interstellar reputation of Vatta Enterprises, I considered giving her a Privileged Origin, but it's clear that Vattas are expected to work for a living, no matter how much money they may have inherited.) Vatta's not particularly intellectual, so "Education" is out as an Origin skill, and so is "Calibrations"—she's not much of a mechanic. "Acumen" is an obvious choice for a merchanter's child, but she'll be able to get that skill from her Commercial Career (see below). I'm therefore opting for "Vocation": Vatta could use the Expertise boost, and her hard-working nature justifies the choice.

Careers are a no-brainer: her parents raised her from infancy to be Commercial, and her contrary nature led her to the Slotter Key Space Academy and thus Military. Because Vatta never made it out of the Academy (she's kicked out for political reasons on p. 2 of Trading in Danger), one skill from Military should be enough, and "Authority" is the obvious pick here. As the plot of the novel will go on to make clear, Vatta may be a neophyte captain, but she knows how to command her crew. The remaining two skills a starting UW character gets will come from Commercial: "Marketing" (Vatta knows where to go to get what she needs) and the aforementioned "Acumen" (she knows how to read the market once she arrives).

Stats are also straightforward. Vatta puts her +2 in Mettle (courage under fire is her forte), one of her +1s in Physique (she is deceptively tough for her age and size), and the other +1 in Influence (she's certainly charismatic). Her 0 goes into Expertise, which is subsequently raised to a +1 courtesy of her "Vocation" Origin skill (she's not a genius, but she knows how to apply herself). Her -1 has to go into Interface: she's no hacker, even if she knows her way around an cerebral implant.

The mission she's given by her father (to deliver some goods in an aging hull en route to the scrapyard) is straightforward enough, so her Advancement trigger is "A cargo is exchanged." The clear choice for a Workspace is "Mercantile," but here Vatta's GM might intervene and make the space a bit less cushy (to reflect the decrepit condition of Vatta's ship, the Glynnis Jones).

Characters normally start play with a Class 0 Attire outfit, but Vatta's fashion-minded mother has made sure that she has a stylish Vatta Enterprises uniform (Class 1 Uniform, Impressive) as well. She also has her setting's ubiquitous cerebral implant (Class 1 Cybermod, Head, Implement-Broadcast Kit), allowing her to connect to local networks, transmitting and receiving information. Finally, her Class 2 asset is a top-of-the-line Deere Ltd. pressure suit (Class 1 Simple, Tough, Sealed).

It's always a good sign when a game system allows you to accurately translate the abilities and qualities of a fictional protagonist from a related genre, and that's certainly the case here with UW.

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

[Uncharted Worlds] Pets in SPAAAACE! Addendum

I can't believe I didn't stat up these little guys when I wrote the original "Pets in SPAAAACE!" post back in July 2017. I guess I didn't have the full Last Jedi fever at that point. Anyhoo, if you want to add porgs to your Uncharted Worlds game, their basic (Class 0) Beast chassis has Natural Locomotion (Flying) as a default. Movement (Swimming) is almost a mandatory upgrade, as is Tiny.

You may also want to give your porg the Emotional upgrade (although you can decide whether the mental state they exude is bliss or rage).

Rebooting the Blog

Welcome to my Hoom Page! Founded in 2010, this blog was originally entitled Vargold: The Wolf-Time. (I've copied all of the posts from Vargold to this new site, so no content has been lost.) The initial focus was on swords-and-sorcery gaming, particularly with regard to the Barbarians of Lemuria system and setting. My interests have shifted over time, and my posting rate has diminished with increased adulting responsibilities. I've recommitted to more frequent blogging, however, and this rebranding of the blog (from Howardian "barbaric yawps" to Tolkienesque "hasty thoughts") is a way to mark the transition. Also, I'm just really into sentient plants and Green Men.

Friday, July 21, 2017

[Uncharted Worlds] Pets in SPAAAACE!

A few weeks back Sean Gomes released the long-awaited Far Beyond Humanity supplement for his Uncharted Worlds RPG. FBH contains—among other things—rules for adding not only extranormal powers to one's UW campaign but also alien player characters. I haven't had a chance to read over the book carefully, but I did find my eyes drawn to one page in particular: the page in the "Commercial" chapter on beast Assets.

Ever since I played a Dwarf Hunter in World of Warcraft, I've been obsessed with pets for characters.  (Well, it's possible that watching The Beastmaster all those years on TBS may also be responsible for this predilection.) For example, the lack of a good Beastmaster Ranger option in Fifth Edition Dungeons & Dragons is a major factor in my lack of enthusiasm for those rules. Conversely, the awesome Animal Companion and Pet rules in 13th Age made that game an easy sell for me (as shown here and here). So finally getting pet rules for UW (something I missed during Sean's open development process for the book) makes me happy.

I'm also happy because the rules for beast Assets allow me to recreate famous science fiction pets right out of the gate.

For example, Kitty Pryde's beloved space dragon Lockheed is a cinch to make: start with a Class 2 Asset beast chassis (basic ability + 2 upgrades), the sort of chassis you'd take if you were going to make a critter-centered PC. A beast Asset can have either Natural Weaponry (one upgrade from the Melee Weapons table) or Natural Locomotion (something other than just walking). I could give Lockheed the Energy upgrade to represent his fiery breath—or I could give him Flying as a form of locomotion. In this case, I'm going to go with Flying because I can also give Lockheed a beast upgrade of Deadly to get the Energy attack. For my second upgrade, I take Tiny; Lockheed is always perched on Kitty's shoulder.

And that's it!

Anne McCaffrey's fire lizards are just as easy to make as Lockheed. Replace Deadly with the upgrade Bond, allowing Beauty and the rest of her flight to telempathically communicate with Menolly. No other changes are needed.

Finally, it turns out that you can make this guy with the FBH beast Asset rules:

Start with Natural Weaponry (the Energy upgrade to represent his lightning Pokémon powers) for free, add the Attuned upgrade (so that Pikachu can't be hurt by the electricity he channels), and then finish him off with the Summoned upgrade ("Pikachu, I choose you!").

A pet like Doctor Who's K-9 is better off handled as a PC built along the lines of the new Robotic Alien Form rules. For more simple critters, though, you are essentially set with this one page alone.

Monday, July 10, 2017

[Macchiato Monsters] Taking Character Creation for a Spin

Let's make a Macchiato Monsters player character!

1. Roll dice to generate ability scores.

The rules say to "Roll 3d6 in order" for the classic six abilities, but I haven't done that since rolling up my first character in 1980. I'll use Method I from the AD&D Dungeon Master's Guide instead: roll 4d6 in order, dropping the lowest die each time. With a little help from Brock Jones's Online Die Roller, I get this array of scores:

STR 10, INT 12, WIS 12, DEX 14, CON 15, CHA 9

Right away I see that I'm looking at someone quite tough and fast with more than a modicum of cleverness and common sense as well. I am allowed by the MM rules to switch one pair of scores; in this case, I'll swap DEX for CON:

STR 10 (50%), INT 12 (60%), WIS 12 (60%), DEX 15 (75%), CON 14 (70%), CHA 9 (45%)

The parenthetical percentages above aren't officially part of the MM rules; I've just included them as a means of gauging the character's chances when trying to roll under a given score on an ability check.

2. Create a trait.

There are no set classes and races in MM, so I have lots of flexibility in choosing one free trait (race, occupation, background, or faction). For the sake of this character creation exercise, I'll make my life easy and go with the assumption of a standard D&D-esque fantasy world. High DEX and CON point me toward a roguish character of the dwarf/gnome/halfling variety. I like dwarves, so let's go with that for race. As for occupation, I'm going to steal a page from 13th Age and say that this character uses his thievish talents to recover treasures "borrowed" from the dwarves over the years. In other words, my trait is:


In game terms, this trait will give me advantage on ability checks related to "either repossessing" stolen treasures or being a dwarf. I could conceivably cram more information into that trait (e.g., "Repo Dwarf for His Subterranean Majesty" or "Repo Dwarf from the Pox Cities") to gain advantage in additional contexts, but my read of the MM community is that traits preferably consist at most of two elements combined. I'm more than willing to be corrected on this point, though!

3. Record hit die.

A straightforward step: all MM characters begin with 1d6 HD.

4. Choose two character creation options.

Here's where I can make choices that flesh out my character mechanically: enhance a score of 10 or less, write down an additional trait, gain a second hit die, undergo Magic Training to acquire two spells, undergo Combat Training to get a larger hit die and proficiency with bigger weapons and stronger armor, or undergo Specialist Training to get just about any other type of capability.

I'm not interested in boosting my STR or CHA, nor do I want to cast spells. "Repo Dwarf" covers everything I want in a trait right now, so I'll pass over that option as well. A second hit die is certainly in a dwarf's wheelhouse, but I am going to hold off on that now for reasons to be revealed in the next step of the process.

That leaves Combat Training and Specialist Training, and I'm more than happy to take both. One level of Combat Training raises my hit die to d8 and allows me to handle d8 weapons and armor; most rogue concepts could probably get by with d6 weapons and armor, but I envision dwarven rogues as packing more serious kit. As for "Specialist Training," I'm going to take "B&E" so as to be able to get through a locked door without a check once per day.

5. Roll hit points.

I haven't rolled hit points while playing D&D at first level since the 1980s—and I'm not about to start now. So I'll just take 8 HP and go my merry way. (The official MM rules allow characters to burn a permanent point of CON to get a reroll, so no one is stuck with 1 HP.)

6. Roll for languages.

At the start of play, characters check INT, WIS, and CHA to see what languages (if any) they know beyond their native tongue (or the common trade language). I rolled a 2 against my INT of 12, a 9 against my WIS of 12, and a 13 against my CHA of 9. So Dwarven and two other languages: the humans' Tradespeak for the first and Goblin for the second (since those little buggers are often in illicit possession of dwarven artifacts).

7. Roll for equipment.

The final step is probably the most distinctive of MM's character creation steps: equipment isn't purchased with randomly rolled funds (e.g., the traditional 3d6x10 of old school D&D). Instead, you receive a d20, a d12, a d10, a d8, a d6, and a d4 to roll on any combination of equipment tables (equipment and food, wealth and valuables, melee weapons, missile weapons, and armor). The idea here is that beginning adventurers are cobbling together their kit.

I want a shot at thieves' tools, so I'll spend my d20 on the equipment and food table. A natural 20 (!) gives me peppered cheese and cider (dR4), a fine horse, cartographer's tools (dR8), and torches (dR6). Clearly I'm on the trail of something big.

Since I didn't get thieves' tools, I may have to buy them. That requires cash, so I spend my d12 on wealth and valuables. Whew! A result of 8 gives me a leather pouch of silver (dR8). That won't get me high-end lock picks, but dR6 is better than nothing. (If I'm reading the price guidelines correctly, a pouch of silver isn't enough to purchase quality gear worth dR8 in value.)

Treasure thieves don't hand over their ill-gotten goods easily, so I need weapons. A d6 on the melee weapons table produces a hammer (d6), and a d8 on the missile weapons table results in a quiver of dR6 darts (d6). I feel like I need a bit more attack power, so I roll my d4 on the melee table and acquire ... a dR10 bag of polished rocks (d4).

Yipes! I hope my d10 pays off on the armor table. I roll a 7, good enough for a leather harness (dR6) that at least looks sufficiently roguish. That decision to take Combat Training doesn't seem so wise retrospectively, but I suppose that having 8 HP will let me live long enough to loot better-quality weapons and armor—right?

8. Put it all together.

Here's my character in pure game terms:

AUDO (medieval variation on the name of Emilio Estevez's character from Repo Man)

Level: 1
STR 10, INT 12, WIS 12, DEX 15, CON 14, CHA 9
Traits: Repo Dwarf
HD: 1d8
HP: 8
Abilities: Combat Training (to d8), Specialist Training: B&E
Languages: Dwarven, Goblin, Tradespeak
Gear: bag of dR10 polished rocks (d4), cartographer's tools (dR8), peppered cheese and cider (dR4), fine horse, hammer (d6), leather harness (dR6), leather pouch of silver (dR8), quiver (dR6) of darts (d6), torches (dR6)

I'm happy with these results. Going in order with the abilities made me choose a concept I probably wouldn't have considered (the classic defense of old school ability generation), and I'm fine with that. It's balanced by the character's freeform traits and training. In some ways I would have preferred the "pool of GP" approach to equipment, but I'm willing to bend in the direction of randomly determining gear (and the story behind said gear). Just don't try to make me give up my "4d6, drop lowest" and "maximum HP at first level"!