Happy Halloween Kids!

Hey all you little ghosts and ghouls – maybe the most appropriate holiday of 2020 is upon us – HALLOWEEN!

However you’re planning to celebrate (and I hope you’re planning to celebrate in some way – don’t let all the bastards out there get you down!), maybe this little wallpaper I made will help get you in the … spirit!

(Special No-Prize if you can name all the namable characters in there!)

I actually turned this thing into a poster, which I had printed at bestofsigns.com … and they did an absolutely fantastic job. Just a free plug for some folks who really came through. Oh – and no, the poster isn’t for sale anywhere. Just a personal project.

In the various and sundry category … RIP Sean Connery. I have a tremendous fondness for Roger Moore’s James Bond, since he’s the one I grew up with (mostly seeing the movies on TV – always a big event!), but you cannot deny the greatness of Connery in the roll. Then there’s his turn in The Hunt for Red October, Outland, Indiana Jones, Darby O’Gill and the Little People (in which he sings!) … Old Tam will be missed on the silver screen.

Also – I make a solemn oath to have the next issue of NOD, and the High Frontier supplement for GRIT & VIGOR out this November. I’ve dragged my feet on finishing them off and uploading them for sale (a process that becomes more tedious with each passing year and each passing revision to the process) for a couple months, so I need to finally cross that finish line.

Finally … I messed around with turning a classic piece of art by J. C. Leyendecker into a template for designing old-time football uniforms. Why? Because I’m writing a second edition of Pen & Paper Football with rules modifications for different eras of professional football, plus rules for the Canadian game, recreating old rosters (i.e. the last blog post I did) and some rules tweaks that I think improve the game. Of course, if I was going to playtest a league in the 1930’s, I needed to design helmets and uniforms! Here are a couple of my designs. My league is up to 1937 … I’m going to play it through to the 1980’s to test everything out, and then spend a couple weeks playtesting the Canadian rules. Fun fun fun!

Have a Happy Halloween folks! Eat some treats, watch a movie (I think we’re doing Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein tonight), and please choose love and fun over hate and despair!

Sometimes, You Get Lucky …

Sometimes you get lucky … but only after wasting lots of time getting it wrong.

I had a request, probably back in 2017 when I wrote Pen & Paper Football, to come up with a scheme to put stats to actual historical football teams. It was an interesting idea, but it required more work than I had the time for then, so I let it go.

When I was playtesting my game, I came up with a crude way to generate stats for teams using the 2016 stats of pro football teams. For my playtesting, I wanted a wide range of stats so I could see how the rules would work with extreme differences in stats. To do this, I took each team’s rating in passing, rushing, receiving, etc. and assigned stat scores starting at 18 for the top two teams, 17 for the next two, and so on from there. Fortunately, the league has 32 teams and I had 16 numbers between 3 and 18, so the process was pretty simple. This approach was crude, but it served my needs. Unfortunately, it was not what the person making the request was looking for to simulate old teams.

The problem with generating ability scores from game stats is that the ability scores in PPF are abstract. The QB/Passing stat, for example, overlaps to some extent with the WR/Receiving stat. It involves not only a team’s starting quarterback, but also the back-ups, and the offensive line’s ability to protect the passer and give him time to find his targets. Then there’s the coaching – the head coach, the quarterback coach, etc. – and their game plan and philosophy. How do you quantify this?

What I needed was an approach that didn’t just compare one team to another team in a given year, but which laid down an ideal quantification and compared any team, from any era, to that ideal. Back in the 1960’s, the league created the concept of a Quarterback Rating, and I figured I could use that as a basis for my work. It’s a somewhat complex formula (at least for hobby gaming), and I put some work into modifying it to rate running backs, but I would need it for receivers as well, and the defense, but defense stats weren’t compiled very well in the old days, and the receiver stats for a team were bound to mirror the quarterback stats, and … oh boy – what a mess!

My post showing off my brilliant scheme was going to appear last weekend, because I was sure I could clear it all up and produce a spreadsheet for people to use. Oh brother – what a huge waste of time. My whole philosophy about gaming is that it should be simple and fun – quick and easy. This wasn’t.

And then it happened. I was working at my desk the other day when a thought popped into my head. A simple way to simulate a team’s stats, using easily obtainable information, without any formulas or much work involved at all. Like I said – sometimes you get lucky!

Player-By-Player Stats

We begin by dividing among the PPF stats (QB, RB, WR, LM, LB, DB) the actual player positions. For each stat we take the three best starting players on a team that are tied to that stat. The position-to-stat breakout is as follows:

QB Quarterback, center, offensive guards
RB Running back, fullback, offensive tackles
WR Wide receivers, tight end
LM Defensive tackles, defensive ends
LB Linebackers
DB Cornerbacks and safeties

We rate players by their highest level of achievement while playing. This can make things a little tricky if we’re trying to recreate teams from the recent past, or from the present day, but with a little brain work and argument, I think one can figure it out.

Each player is scored for their lifetime achievement in pro football:

Achievement Score
None in particular 3
One pro-bowl/all-star game 4
Multiple pro-bowls/all-star games 5
Hall of Fame 6

Rookies deduct two from their score. One can also knock a point off for a player in the twilight of their career if they have clearly lost a step.

For each stat, you take the three best players, by rating, associated with that stat and add them up to get the relevant ability score.

For an example, I give you the 1984 Miami Dolphins:

Stat Players Score Bonus
QB Dan Marino (6), Dwight Stephenson (6), Ed Newman (5) 17 +5
RB Tony Nathan (4), Woody Bennett (3), John Geisler (3), Cleveland Green (3) 10 +3
WR Mark Clayton (5), Mark Duper (5), Dan Johnson (3) 13 +4
LM Bob Baumhower (5), Doug Betters (4), Kim Bokamper (4) 13 +4
LB Bob Brudzinski (3), AJ Duhe (4), Charles Bowser (3), Mark Brown (3) 10 +3
DB All players rate a 3 9 +3

The Minnesota Vikings were less successful that year – their stats are as follows:

Stat Players Score Bonus
QB Tommy Kramer (4), Ron Sams (3), Curtis Rouse (3), Terry Tausch (3) 10 +3
RB All players rate a 3 9 +3
WR Sammy White (5), Mike Jones (3), Steve Jordan (5) 13 +4
LM Charles Johnson (5), Neil Elshire (3), Mark Mullaney (3) 11 +3
LB Matt Blair (5), Scott Studwell (5), Dennis Johnson (3), Fred McNeil (3) 13 +4
DB John Swain (3), Rufus Bess (3), Tom Hannon (3), Carl Lee (5) 11 +3

The value of this system is that it requires little in the way of mathematics, and it is broadly applicable to different eras of football, since concepts like all-star games are pretty old, and players from the very beginning of football have been enshrined in the Hall of fame.

You can also use this system to create pro squads from the starting players of a given year instead of rolling a team’s stats. Use a random draft for the first year of play, then hold real drafts each year thereafter.

Earlier Eras of Football

To prove one can use this for different eras of the game, I present the 1920 Canton Bulldogs, with a couple caveats:

First – the game of football was different then, so the ability scores must change a bit. This is something else I’m working on for the next edition of PPF. For football before the forward pass dominated that game, you use the following ability scores:

BK (Backfield) = Tail Back, Full Back, Blocking Back, Wing Back, Center

RL (Right Line) = Right End, Right Tackle, Right Guard

LL (Left Line) = Left End, Left Tackle, Left Guard

Note that you only need the one set of stats, since players played both offense and defense in the same general spots.

In this version of the game, the defense commits to stacking their defense on the right or left, rather than against the run or pass, and the offense runs their plays to the right or left. Also keep in mind that the offense’s right is mirrored by the defense’s left, etc.

Using these stats, the 1920 Bulldogs look as follows:

Stat Players Score Bonus
BK Jim Thorpe (6), Pete Calac (3), Tex Grigg (3), Joe Guyon (6), Al Feeney (3) 15 +4
RL John Kellison (3), Pete Henry (6), Bulger Lowe (4) 13 +4
LL Bob Higgins (3), Cub Buck (3), Cap Edwards (3) 9 +3

So the Bulldogs are stronger on the right than the left, and have a pretty good backfield. With just one more all-star in the backfield, that could bump their backfield bonus to +5. Even without another all-star, Coach Thorpe can win some ballgames with these guys.

Ready for Some Pen and Paper Football

It’s an October Sunday, and by golly I was in the mood for some football. I’m not a huge fan of the modern iteration of the game (or the modern iteration of anything, for that matter), but I am a fan of a little game I wrote called Pen & Paper Football. It’s easily my top seller – being priced very affordably probably helps that. I haven’t really messed with it for a while, so this weekend I rolled up a quick league, spent a ridiculous amount of time designing uniforms to go with my helmets, and even made a few football cards (because it was fun, that’s why) … and eventually got around to rolling up some quick games. For the playoffs and championship I’ll play the games out longhand.

In the process of opening old files, I found a bit I wrote a while back and never published … well, I don’t think I ever published. It was some random “quirks” for football teams, to give them a little more personality.

D20

QUIRK

1

No quirk

2

+1 to d20 rolls during the first half of the game

3

+1 to d20 rolls during the second half of the game

4

+1 to defense while leading in a game

5

+1 to offense d20 rolls when more than a touchdown behind

6

+1 to offense in dome stadiums; -1 in outdoor stadiums

7

+1 to offense attacks in the red zone

8

+2 to passing attacks on 4th down

9

+2 to running attacks on 4th down

10

+1 yard per dice while passing in second half of game

11

+1 yard per dice when running  in second half of game

12

+1 to offense attacks on special plays

13

+1 to DR inside the red zone

14

+2 to DR when opponent is still scoreless in the 4th quarter

15

+1 to passing attacks when opponent is down by more than a touchdown

16

Anytime the defense sacks the QB, there is a 1 in 10 chance he must sit out the remainder of the offensive series (i.e. lose star QB, or -1 to QB bonus)

17

Get do-over when playing on the road instead of at home

18

Launch one cheerleader battle per game; roll 2d6 – opponent has to roll higher; if they do, you have to roll higher still, and so on until somebody falls; winner gets a do-over on the last play

19

After one blitz results in a sack, sacks now occur on a roll of 1 or 2 on offense attacks

20

Gain one do-over when opponent is ahead in the second half

Sorry for the brief post, but it’s been a busy weekend, and between California setting itself on fire and blowing the smoke in Vegas’ face and good old fashioned fall allergens, I haven’t had much sleep. Still, not a bad weekend overall – I made my pumpkin pasta that officially begins the fall season in the Stater household, discovered that Mr. T made a show in Canada (T and T) that ran from ’87-90, watched Rock & Rule for the umpteenth time and had the family over for a birthday party.  Ooo – I also found a Sony combination DVD/VHS player for my old TV for $4 at a thrift store … and it works!

There’s plenty of cruddy stuff going on out there folks, so accentuate the positive and do the best living you can do!

NTN TV Schedule – October 2020

The Nod Television Network proudly presents seven shows to make you quake with fear this Halloween season.

Sunday | IN SEARCH OF …

“Dracula”. I associate Sunday afternoons in the late 70s with two shows in particular – Ripley’s Believe It or Not, hosted by Jack Palance, and In Search Of … hosted by Leonard Nimoy. In Search Of … is like a who’s who of 70’s pseudo-science, covering everything from bigfoot to E.S.P. to the Loch Ness Monster to U.F.O.s. Originally telecast 6/8/77

Monday | SPECIAL PRESENTATION

“Witch’s Night Out”. October was always time for specials, and I suppose the Halloween special people know best is It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown. Now, that’s a great cartoon – I love it to this day – but I also remember a show called Witch’s Night Out, which freaked me out as a kid. It was the art style – so weird and creepy. Gilda Radner provided the witch’s voice – what a lovely woman! Originally telecast 10/27/78

Tuesday | ADDAMS FAMILY

“Halloween with the Addams Family”. The Addams Family and Munsters both premiered the same year, and I love them both. You can’t beat John Astin and Carolyn Jones as the most romantic couple to ever grace television, and Ted Cassidy as Lurch is brilliant. I apologize in advance that the linked show cuts off the theme song. Originally telecast 10/30/64

Wednesday | FRIDAY THE 13TH: THE SERIES

“The Poison Pen”. This is the second episode of the series – I linked to the first episode in the August schedule. In this episode, the gang has to disguise themselves as monks to get into a monastery in search of a cursed pen. Originally telecast 10/10/87

Thursday | MOVIE – Horror

“The Monster Club”, 1981, starring Vincent Price and John Carradine. While this may not be the greatest film either of these men worked on … or anyone worked on … it is hosted by Elvira, Mistress of the Dark, and features an early appearance of UB40. I think Cassandra Peterson is a national treasure, along with Price and Carradine. Original telecast 2/6/83

Friday | SHE-WOLF OF LONDON

“She-Wolf of London”, series premiere. In the aptly named first episode of the series, Randi travels to England to study archaeology, and instead winds up a lycanthrope. I mentioned this one a few posts ago in my salute to 90’s TV – what better time than October to post the first episode. Originally telecast 10/9/90

Saturday | MONSTER SQUAD

“Ultra Witch”. Can Dracula, Bruce the Werewolf, and Frankenstein’s Monster, along with the Loveboat’s Fred Grandy, stop Julie Newmar as the Ultra Witch? Well, probably, since they’re the heroes. Watch it anyways – for Newmar if nothing else. Ultra Witch is the coolest name for a villain (or a band) I’ve ever heard. Originally telecast 10/30/76

BONUS!

PAUL LYNDE HALLOWEEN SPECIAL (1976)

I think I’ve established a relationship of trust with my readers, so when I tell you this Halloween special was pretty terrible, I know you’ll believe me. Of course, with my taste in entertainment, I consider this show terrible-great, rather than terrible-terrible. Like all such shows in the 70s (and boy, were there a bunch of them), you get a star-studded cast – Tim Conway, Margaret Hamilton, Witchie-Poo, Pinky Tuscadero, Donny & Marie, Florence Henderson and, the only reason this show managed to survive the 70s, the first TV appearance of KISS. Buckle up boys and girls – it’s going to be a bumpy ride! Originally telecast 10/29/76.

Saying Goodbye to a Good Girl

I’ve had quite a few dogs in my life, and I’ve loved every one of them with all my heart and soul. Josie still stands out. She was unbelievably sweet. Meek and mild, but ridiculously vivacious. Josie was a rescue. We actually went down to the place interested in a different dog that we’d seen online, and as we walked through the door saw that dog being adopted.

“We’re not leaving without a dog,” my wife informed me … and I agreed.

It had been about 6 months since our last dog had passed away. Kopper was 8 years old when he passed, after having gone through more trouble than any dog should ever have – he had a twisted leg, went blind at age 2, had to have his tail amputated due to a large growth … Kopper was a mess, but we loved him. After having to put him down, I didn’t know if I could go through it again. Six months later, I knew I needed the pitter-patter of dog feet around the house, and so off we went.

With our chosen dog out of the running, we started looking through their online guide. While doing that, my wife noticed Josie sitting in the rescue office. She had obviously just been passed by by somebody else, and was on her way back to the kennels.

“That’s Josie,” my wife said, “I remember her. I want Josie.”

So we met Josie, who ignored us while she was excitedly looking at the other animals up for adoption, and decided somehow that she was the one. Well – look at those pictures – how could we pass this sweet girl by.

Josie was only 2 when we adopted her. At 4-1/2, she contracted a rare and untreatable cancer. Three days ago, we had to put her down. She’d had 6 more weeks of walks and love (and for Josie, walks were almost the same thing as love) after her diagnosis, but was finally stuggling to breath, and was unable to eat. I sat on the floor of the examining room of our family vet and comforted her while she breathed her last. It was as hard as anything I’ve ever done.

So now I’m writing this, because Josie deserves a eulogy. She was a precious little gift from God, and we’ll miss her terribly.

Hug your pets, your kids, your spouses, your parents and siblings an everyone you love every time you see them. Hug them, and love them, and value them, folks. That’s what makes life worth living.

Everybody Loves a Spaceman in Uniform

After drawing those Jason of Star Command uniforms (in Excel, of course) for the post last weekend, I decided to try my hand at drawing some more sci-fi uniforms.

Below is the result of my mania. I chose a bunch of science-fiction TV and movie uniforms – not just costumes, you understand, but uniforms – and with MS Excel in hand cobbled them together as best I could. They are presented in the chronological order in which they appeared in reality – I thought about doing it in order of when the show/movie was set, and may do that one later.

It was a fun exercise, and although it took longer to do than I had planned, it sure helped me mellow out while I worked on it.

What’s your favorite old sci-fi uniform? What’s your favorite that didn’t make it onto my little poster? Let me know in the comments!

The World of Star Command

There are many sci-fi properties one can use as a basis for a role-playing game campaign – Star Trek and Star Wars, of course, but also Flash Gordon, Buck Rogers and Alien . Filmation (who did a great a Flash Gordon cartoon back in the day) did two great Saturday morning live-action sci-fi shows in the 1970’s – Space Academy and Jason of Star Command that would make for a great campaign setting.

Let’s explore these overlooked shows …

[Note – when I started writing this post, it was a short piece about the shows and how they could be used for a campaign. It sorta grew way out of proportion to what I originally intended … ]

Space Academy

Space Academy was produced in 1977 and ran from September to December of that year. Sci-fi legend Jonathan Harris (“oh the pain, the pain”) portrayed Commander Isaac Gampu, the head of Space Academy. His students were divided into three exploration teams, Blue, Gold and Red, the blue team being the team that starred in the series.

Blue Team consists of Captain Chris Gentry (Ric Carrott), Cadet Laura Gentry (Pamelyn Ferdin), Cadet Adrian Pryce-Jones (Maggie Cooper), Lieutenant Paul Jerome (Ty Henderson) and Cadet Tee Gar Soom (Brian Tochi), as well as a younger boy named Loki, an alien raised by energy beings and possessing the ability to teleport and see beyond the visible spectrum.

We do know that the Red Team leader is Matt Prentiss, but we know nothing else about the red and yellow teams. This means that either of these teams could be made up of a party of PC’s, their low introductory levels reflecting the fact that they have not graduated from the academy yet.

Space Academy introduces some of the technology of the setting, such as the Seekers – space shuttles used for exploration – and the robot Peepo (technically a self-determining Type-A manu-droid). We also learn that Earth fought in three star wars, including the Vegan War. While Earth and Vega are no longer at war, the Denebians are a hostile species, who defend their space with hostile drones.

Jason of Star Command

In 1978, Filmation created Jason of Star Command using the same sets, props and costumes as were used on Space Academy. Jason of Star Command is set on the same mobile asteroid base as Space Academy – it is housed elsewhere in the complex – and uses Seekers as well as Starfires to explore space. Peepo the robot shows up on both series. During the first season, Star Command’s commander is Commander Carnavin (James Doohan), with blue-skinned Commander Stone (John Russell) taking over in season two when Doohan had to leave the show to appear in Star Trek: The Motion Picture.

Other members of Star Command include Captain Nicole Davidoff (Susan Pratt) and science officer Professor E. J. Parsafoot, who appears to be second-in-command of Star Command/Space Academy. Jason is a sort of Han Solo-esque freelancer for Star Command, rather than an officer. Commander Stone and Captain Davidoff might be the only actual officers of the organization that we see. This actually opens opportunities for introducing into the campaign new characters from outside the organization with different motives/goals than Star Command.

Since Jason of Star Command was more action-oriented than Space Academy, it needed a good antagonist for the heroes, and got one in the form of Dragos (Sid Haig), former Prime Minister of Klavu, and now would-be conqueror of space. Dragos is a cyborg who commands the Dragonship, another mobile asteroid. His minions appear to come from numerous alien species, most of them short and hairy.

What We Know (or Can Guess)

FYI – I do not have the cool boxed set of JoSC DVD’s that includes scripts and a booklet, so this is all guess work from watching the episodes. I probably have tons wrong, and some things I invented to make the campaign more complete.

Space Academy is set sometime after Star Year 3732, which is when the academy was founded. We have no idea how long ago this was, but I’m going to set the campaign in SY 3777, since the TV show was made in ’77. The events of Jason of Star Command are set at least a year later – Cadet Peepo is now part of Star Command, and Matt Prentiss, who we first see as a S.A. cadet is revealed to be a lieutenant in Star Command and to have been missing for almost a year. Since Jason was made in ’78 and ’79, we’ll place our campaign in 3780.

At one point, Commander Gampu uses his old spacesuit, which has a U.S. flag patch on the arm. Since Gampu is 300 years old, we can surmise that the U.S.A. still exists well into the future. There are also references made to the Fourth of July and the Boy Scouts.

Cadet Peepo

Earth and its colonies, and possibly other worlds, are members of a Federation. The Space Academy is funded by the Federation – and some of its leaders are worried that they are spending too much money!

Star Command appears to be the primary military arm of the Federation. Their large starships – and perhaps most large starships – are built on asteroids. These vessels are enormous, possibly carrying up to 10,000 people. These vessels have numerous biodomes for growing plants and towers armed with spin-lasers. They also possess tractor beams. One ship carries the Space Academy, where students from many worlds learn to cope with the unknown by embarking on missions. We meet one other ship during the Space Academy series, called Hope, that was constructed more than a millennia ago – I would guess approximately 1,550 years ago. Many Space Academy cadets go on to serve with Star Command.

Uniforms

The most common form of uniform in the series seem to be the ones worn by the cadets, crew and commanders – a sort of loose tunic with an undershirt. The undershirts are different colors. On Space Academy, they designate the team to which the cadets are assigned, and the cadets wear a SA patch on their right arm. I’m not sure what the shirt colors designate on Star Command, but at one point they mention a “yellow sector” on Space Academy.

Some crewmen wear jumpsuits instead of the common uniform. These are simple jumpsuits with SA patches.

Capt. Davidoff wears an orange and brown field uniform that looks like it is designed for ease of movement. Star Command operatives could wear this on missions.

Prof. Parsifoot wears what could be described as a utility jacket over a turtleneck sweater.

Commander Stone wears a different uniform than Commander’s Gampu and Carnavin, but Captain Kirk got two types of uniforms, so why can’t the commanders have some different options.

The only hint of rank insignia are the bars worn on Capt. Davidoff’s shoulders. They appear to be the same gold color as the emblem she wears, which might be the symbol of Star Command. The ranks we know from the show are lieutenant, captain and commander. If we use a semi-naval rank structure like Star Trek, we could fill in ensign before lieutenant and assume that there is an admiralty beyond the commander rank.

Spaceships

Seekers, also called “star seekers”, are space shuttles capable of faster-than-light travel (star speed). They are armed with spin-lasers and presser beams, and have force field shields. The front of the vessel was re-used from the Ark II (see below), which in my little mind links the two series. The interior is divided into the main cockpit, an engine room and an airlock.

Starfires are spaceships used by Star Command. The interior looks an awful lot like the interior of a Seeker. Starfires have a small module, called a mini-cat, attached to the front. The mini-cat is maneuverable and can hold up to two people. They are much faster than seekers. They are equipped with spin-lasers and stun rays.

Motherships (I needed a name, and I dig this one) are constructed on asteroids. They have massive engines and apparently can achieve light speed (apparently they can barely achieve “9275 light speed”, and only hold it for a short time), since they travel between stars. Space Academy is commanded first by Commander Isaac Gampu and later by Commander Carnavin. An earlier ship of similar design was called Hope, and was commanded by Commander Rampo.

Motherships have the following features:

  • Myotron lasers (located in towers)
  • Tractor beams
  • Energy screens
  • Biodomes, where food can be grown
  • Power stations (one is called Power Station Alpha)
  • Seekers (at least five), starfires (at least three) and fighter drones (at least six, maybe eight)

It is worth noting that the myotron lasers cannot fire through the energy screens when they are turned to maximum. Space Academy’s energy screens were able to withstand a laser barage from six red dragons for several minutes.

Dragos’ Dragonship is also constructed on an asteroid. All of the creatures on Dragos’ ship are energy creatures created by Dragos and commanded by him.

Dragos’ Emblem

The Dragonship has the following features:

  • Torpedo lasers (no, I don’t know what that means)
  • Neutron jammer, capable of disabling spaceships
  • Teleportation rays
  • Tractor rays
  • Dungeons
  • Energy creatures and energy clones – created by Dragos and controlled by the medallion he wears
  • Warp dragons can be released by the second Dragonship
  • Self-destruct capability (oops!)

The Dragonship can launch drone fighters called red dragons. Red dragons operate in squadrons of three; there are at least four or five red dragon squadrons.

Dragos’ second ship (used in the second season of the show) is called the Dragonstar, and though it looks different than the Dragonship, it seems to have the same capabilities and a very similar interior. The Dragonstar does have one bonus item – an anti-matter ray!

The Space Flyer makes one appearance, and gives one an idea about what private spaceships might look like. It’s a bit smaller than the Starfire, and probably seats more than one person, with room for a rather large piece of cargo – the stargate.

Equipment and Materials

Beam-rays are rifle-like weapons used by Dragos’ forces. They have a stun setting, and presumably more deadly effects.

Colinears are the personal communicators used by SA and SC.

Cryotron: An experimental freeze ray. It successfully froze things, but unfortunately those things later exploded.

Energy Rod: This device is used by the energy clone of Commander Carnavin created by Dragos and by the “rag mops” aboard the Dragonship. It is a 2.5-ft. long rod topped by a box. It can paralyze people and put them to sleep, and disrupt electronic devices.

Hand Laser: These devices are powerful lasers. Although they are not used for violence in the series, they surely could be.

Life Sensor: A handheld device that can detect the presence of life nearby.

Life-Support Bracelets generate a personal force field for exploring in hostile environments. This is clearly an adaptation of the life-support belts for the animated Star Trek series done by Filmation.

Mineral Extractor: A device approximately 3.5 feet tall and a foot in diameter that can extract and process minerals.

Technite is a form of explosive.

Thought-Converter: The experimental thought converter allows for communication between species. It has been tested between humans and chimpanzees.

W1K1 – or “Wiki” – is  small robot designed by Prof. Parsifoot and used by Jason that can produce all sort of effects. It can walk, fly and levitate, break orbit on a planetoid and fly through space, generate lasers and survive a laser attack from a spaceship. Whether W1K1 is standard equipment for Star Command operatives or just something special for Jason, I do not know, but it’s pretty impressive.

Zolium: An energy-producing mineral, and thus probably radioactive. In large quantities it disrupts electronics, such as the life-support bracelets, though in small quantities it powers them.

Species

We see several species and sub-species in the series that could be used for PCs.

Humans: As is often the case, humans are the most common species – maybe because human actors and extras are the easiest to use in a series?

Mutants: Some of the humans that appear in the series have what could be described as augmented powers. We can describe them as mutants. These augmented abilities range from psionic powers (telepathy, teleportation, E.S.P.) to super strength to longevity – Commander Gampu is 300 years old.

Arcturons: We dont’ know for sure the real name of the creatures, and since they were all revealed to be energy creatures, they may not even exist. But they may be Arcturons from Arcturus. On the plus side – they’re super cool – like evil wookies – and would make great brute opponents. They have long, stringy hair that looks reddish to me (but be warned – I’m color blind). They shamble when they walk, and they growl and grunt rather than speak.

Brotean: Although they do not mention the name of Commander Stone’s species, they do reveal that they are descended from the ancient Tantalusians. Since one of Tantalus’ sons was Broteus, I decided to call them Broteans. The Broteans were driven from their home planet by Dragos. They have blue skin and can put people to sleep for a short time (max. 5 minutes) by touching two fingers to their forehead and saying “rest”. Presumably, this is a psionic ability.

Capellos: Samantha (Tamara Dobson), who we meet in season 2 has no memory of who she is or where she comes from, but at one point claims to be a Capello. The Capellos are a people who live by the lakes of their planet. Whatever species she is, she is extremely strong and has some psionic ability – telepathy, though not as strong as that shown by the brother and sister in Space Academy, and the ability to communicate with animals. By the name, one might expect the Capellos to come from Capella.

Cyclopean Apes: These creatures guard a planetoid used as a weapon platform by Dragos to attack Space Academy with a giant freeze ray. The leader of the cyclopean apes is Tehor. Their planetoid contains mud mines. They also appear working for Queen Vanessa, and working on the Dragonstar.

Dalians: The Dalians come from the arid planet of Dalius. Many among them are wanderers and loners, eschewing the company of others. Given the character of their planet, it is likely that the Dalians primarily live as herders. Dramon is relatively unfamiliar with the high technology of Space Academy, so it is probable that Dalius is not an advanced planet.

Energy Vapors: These alien creature might not be sentient. They appear as clouds of vapor that give off a green light. They absorb energy, feeding on suns and spaceships.

Hornhead: The hornhead is a large quadroped that looks something like a long-legged reptilian rhinoceros.

Jotun: We don’t have a name for Loki’s species, so I figured I’d go with this. They are humanoid and possessed of impressive abilties, including clairvoyance and teleportation. A person called Kane claimed to be a member of the same species, and he was capable of becoming invisible and metamorphing into other creatures.

Keshians: The natives of cold, barren Kesh stand approximately 3 feet tall. They are usually wrapped in hooded robes to keep out the cold of their world. They appear to dwell mostly underground, and probably live off of lichens. Queen Vanessa (Julie Newmar) rules Kesh, but is clearly not a native of the planet – she was probably placed on the throne by Dragos.

Klavuan: The Klavuans come from a world once ruled by a royal family. The royals were deposed by their prime minister, Dragos, who went on to become a mad cyborg bent on cosmic conquest. I have a theory that his allies Queen Medusa and Queen Vanessa were Klavuan commoners he raised to power when he conquered Klavu.

Lightning Tongue: These large insect creatures have a lashing tongue that gives off an electric burst when it strikes objects.

Rocks of Janus: In Space Academy, the students encounter two sentient space rocks that look like comets. They control electro-magnetism, and use it electromagnetic pulses to move and communicate through robots and computers. They can fire bolts of electromagnetism to pull, push and damage objects. They can also generate force fields to protect themselves.

Star Monster: This monster appears on the planetoid of the cyclopean apes. It is larger than a human being, and has a mouth full of sharp teeth.

Vegans: Vegans are humanoid aliens with a technological level equal to the Federation. Their touch can temporarily paralyze other creatures.

Warp Dragons: Warp dragons can warp into our dimension from their home dimension. They are larger than seekers and starfires, can survive in space and feed on energy. Stun rays are useless against them.

 

Astrography

Like so many sci-fi shows from the past, there is some confusion in SA/JoSC between galaxies, solar systems, planets, etc. There are numerous ion storms, galactic typhoons and exploding planets, so the show is not what you would call “hard sci-fi”. That being said, we can suss out a bit of the setting’s astrography from the shows.

Sol: Characters in Space Academy seem to think that Lt. Jerome’s coming from an Earth colony is significant, which suggests that most of the human characters come from Earth rather than Earth’s colonies. We also learn that life on the colonies is more rugged than on Earth. Even with FTL travel, Earth’s colonies are probably in orbit of stars relatively near the Sun, like Alpha Centauri. Martian folk songs are mentioned, meaning that there are people on Mars, and have been there long enough to develop a distinct folk culture.

Alderan: A planet located near the Alderan Triangle, where numerous ships have been lost over the millennia. Alderan orbits HD 139664 (57 LY).

Alopek: Alopek is a planet with a new colony. It is supplied energy from asteroid BX-3. Alopek orbits Alrakis (89 LY).

Alturis: Alturis is an agricultural asteroid heated by a giant space mirror located on an asteroid called Specular. It is commanded by Professor Bolt. It orbits Xi Aquilae (51 LY).

Arcos: Arcos is a planet that orbits Kappa Ceti (30 LY). It is ruled by Queen Medusa.

Arcturon/Arcturus: Arcturon is a planet orbiting Arcturus (37 LY). It is known for its diamonds, and might be the home of the “rag mop” creatures who serve Dragos.

Capella: Capella (43 LY) is the home star of the Capellos, who live by lakes. Samantha could be a Capellos – she says so in one episode, but may have been lying.

Dalius: Dalius is an arid, warm planet. The natives are humanoids possessed of terrific strength. One native, Dramon, is a wanderer, though this doesn’t mean the rest are. Dalius orbits 14 Herculis (42 LY).

Denebola: The Denebians are not a friendly species – they consider incursions into their space an act of war, and defend their space with drones. It is 36 LY from Sol.

Kesh: Kesh is a cold, barren world with two moons. It is ruled by Queen Vanessa, who is likely not native to the planet. Queen Vanessa is an ally of Dragos. She can create energy creatures and has a beam weapon that can disrupt passing ships. Kesh orbits Pollux (34 LY).

Klavu: Klavu was a monarchy, presumably with a parliament, before it was conquered by Dragos, the former prime minister.  He captured Princess Allegra, keeping her locked in his dungeon transmogrified into a weird monster. Klavu orbits HD 87883 (59 LY).

Kryton: Kryton is a world of peace, and was the stage for a combined invasion of Dragos and the Denebians. It orbits Innes’ Star (41 LY).

Leonais III: An Earth colony world located near the Alderan Triangle. The colony was probably founded in the 2270’s. It orbits Beta Circini (97 LY).

Lyra: Lyra is mentioned as a place that Commander Gampu does not think is the origin of Loki. Lyra is a constellation, so presumably this planet is located in that general direction from Earth. It orbits Gliese 758 (51 LY).

Milicetus: Milicetus is mentioned as being a colony. It orbits Caph (55 LY).

Nebula IV: A planet to which a mission was launched from Space Academy. It orbits the star Mu2 Octantis (140 LY).

Proteus IX-B: This mining asteroid is all that is left of a planet, known as the Phantom Planet. The planet supported a long-lost civilization, whose only remaining artifacts were golden egg-shaped nodules. When the asteroid exploded, the last remnants of the civilization were rescued by Space Academy. It orbits HD 201636 (160 LY).

Sirius: Sirius is mentioned as a place that Commander Gampu does not think is the origin of Loki. It is 9 light years from Sol.

Stygion: Stygion is a barren world orbiting Fomalhaut (25 LY). It held a stash of power artifacts which Dragos’ planned to use to conquer the universe. Star Command destroyed the planet before he could carry out his plan.

Tantalusia: The Tantalusians were an ancient civilization that recorded their wisdom on star discs, which look like black disks approximately 1.5-feet in diameter covered in crushed diamonds. They come from another dimension, sometimes called Limbo. Commander Stone’s species is descended from the Tantalusians.

Tarazed: Tarazed is a planet near Denebian space orbiting the star Megrez (80 LY).

Tarquabeta: Tarquabeta is mentioned as a planet around which Dragos’ Dragonship may have been orbiting after pirate Matt Daringstar kidnapped Prof. Parsifoot for Dragos. It orbits Chi Eridani (58 LY).

Vega: Earth and Vega waged a star war against one another 200 years ago. Many lives were lost and many ships destroyed. Vega and Earth are now at peace. Vega is 25 LY away from Sol.

Voton: A “Voton sector” is mentioned at one point as the location of the galactic typhoon. I’ve decided Voton orbits Merak, which is 80 LY away.

Zalon: Zalon is a planet that exploded in the first episode of Space Academy. It was here that Loki was discovered. Zalon orbited Phecda (83 LY).

Zira: A planet “beyond Sagittarius”. Since this is not technically possible, it probably orbits a star in that constellation. I’ve decided on HD 165185 (57 LY).

An Ark II Connection?

Ark II was another Filmation sci-fi series, and it really has nothing to do with SA/JoSC. Set on a post-apocalyptic Earth in the 25th century, it is about a group of young people in a mobile laboratory/library called Ark II trying to rekindle the civilizations destroyed by an ecological disaster on Earth. The Ark II is an absolutely awesome sci-fi vehicle, and the little runabout used on the show is pretty great as well. The Ark II crew has great uniforms, Biblical names (codenames in reference to the Ark?), and the series would make a great basis for a post-apocalyptic – but hopeful – setting.

Because it is set 1200 years before Space Academy, the series could certainly be set in SA’s past. Perhaps the surviving scientists that created Ark II were successful in their mission of resurrecting civilization, and eventually that civilization made its way into the stars. In any event, the Ark and runabout designs would work well in Star Command campaigns as land vehicles.

If we used Ark II in the setting, we would have a timeline as follows:

2174 – Captain Rampo born (SA)

2220’s – Spaceship Hope launched under the command of Captain Rampo (SA)

2350’s – Earth’s civilizations are set back by pollution and lack of resources (it was the 70’s folks – this was a pretty common theme at the time). (A2)

2400’sArk II travels a devastated Earth trying to resurrect its civilization. We know that previous to Earth’s ecological catastrophe that there were scientists who created a weird Limbo dimension by doing experiments with time, and apparently they were building spaceships and colonizing other worlds. (A2)

???? – Earth’s civilizations are reborn due to the work of the Arks and their crews. This seems to occur sometime between the 2400’s and 3400’s, which gives plenty of time to rebuild civilization and begin exploring space.

3470’s – Commander Isaac Gampu is born, apparently on the resurrected Earth (SA)

3570’s – Earth-Vegan War occurs (SA)

3732 – Space Academy founded (SA)

3777 – Events of Space Academy (SA)

3778 – Events of Jason of Star Command’s first season (JoSC)

3779 – Events of Jason of Star Command’s second season (JoSC)

NTN TV Schedule – September 2020

The Nod Television Network proudly presents seven more shows to peruse this week.

Sunday | WILD KINGDOM

“Strangest of All”. A Sunday tradition for many of us, along with Wonderful World of Disney, was Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom. This was state-of-the-art nature programming back in the day, and Marlin Perkins and Jim loomed large in the popular conscious. Originally telecast in 1965.

Monday | CAR 54, WHERE ARE YOU?

“Boom, Boom, Boom”. As old as this show is, and as acquainted as I was with the theme song, I had never actually watched an episode until last year. I enjoyed them enough to keep watching, and when I hit this particular episode I fell in love. Hey folks – it’s Monday – I’m we can all use a good laugh. Originally telecast 1/14/62

Tuesday | MOTOROLA TELEVISION HOUR

“Atomic Attack”. There were many anthology series in the old days, though in this day and age The Twilight Zone is probably the best known. The Motorola Television Hour was such a series, and Rod Serling actually did some writing for it, though not this particular episode. This episode fits in with the inadverent theme of this post (see below). Originally telecast 5/18/54

Wednesday | BURKE’S LAW

“Who Killed Holly Howard”, series premiere. I’ve mentioned this one before on the blog. It’s like a combination of Love Boat and The Avengers (the show, not the comic/movies). Eccentric suspects and a police captain who shows up to crimes in his Rolls Royce. Originally telecast 9/20/63

Thursday | MOVIE – Drama

“The Day After” starring Jason Robards and JoBeth Williams. This has to be one of the most famous TV movies of the era, and a reminder of what the Baby Boomers and Gen X’ers lived with – the fateful day when the world would burn. Thankfully, we avoided that day, but this was a scary show in its time. Original telecast 11/20/83

Friday | UFO

“Identified”, series premiere. If you haven’t seen this mind-bender from Gerry Anderson, you haven’t lived. Like every other show he produced, UFO has amazing visuals – sets, costumes, vehicles, props – you name it. The tone of the series is surprisingly dark. Space: 1999 was originally intended as a follow-up to this series. Originally telecast 9/16/70

Saturday | ARK II

“The Flies”, series premiere. Continuing our accidental theme, Ark II by Filmation posited one possible future after “The Day After”. Well, maybe it was a far-fetched future, but certainly useful for all those Gamma World buffs out there. The Ark II is one of the coolest vehicles that ever showed up on film, and the show also had a super-cool 4WD vehicle, a jet pack and a super-intelligent chimp. Pretty much everything I love in entertainment. Oh – and you get Jonathan Harris! Originally telecast 9/11/76

BONUS!

THE GREAT NBC SMILIN’ SATURDAY MORNING PARADE (1976)

Yeah, I suppose even the young whippersnappers in the audience know that Gen X grew up with Saturday morning cartoons. But did you know that the networks did preview shows on the Friday before the Saturday morning cartoons premiered? Well, now you do! And dig all that live action fun – from the groovy Monster Squad (more on that in a later post) to the trippy Land of the Lost.

Chainmailing It In

A couple weeks back, my daughter and I were chatting about games, and I realized that she hadn’t played a wargame yet. I thought at first about brushing up on the old Warhammer Fantasy Battle rules, but then decided it would be fun to use Gygax’s Chainmail rules. I’d never used them before, so it was an opportunity for my daughter and I to both learn something new.

First step – read the rules. Second step – try to reorganize the rules so I could understand them. What the founders of the hobby had in creativity they made up for with a lack of organization! In the process of learning the rules, I discovered some things about old school D&D while I also gained an appreciation for those rules. What follows are a few takeaways for those who dig the old school, and those who have never read Chainmail. FYI – I’m using the third edition rules, which I found online.

Figures in the game are divided into two sorts, each using a different combat table. The lowliest of the figurines are the regular troops. These fellows use one of two combat tables. If each figurine counts as 10 or 20 warriors, you use the mass combat table. On this table, you roll 1d6 (one dice is easier when rolling lots of dice for lots of figures), and have one of six ratings for attack and defense – light foot, heavy foot, armored foot, light horse, medium horse and heavy horse.

The closest thing in later editions of D&D to these figures is the men-at-arms, bandit (brigands), etc. In the first edition of D&D, though, these fellows show up on the character class combat tables – Men, or Men +1.

If each figure represent a single warrior, you use the man-to-man combat table. On this table you roll 2d6, with your chance of hitting based on the attacker’s weapon and the defender’s armor. This isn’t completely different than the mass combat table, but is more fleshed out – lots of weapon types, lots of armor types.

Beyond these normal warriors, you have the monsters, heroes, super heroes and wizards from the fantasy supplement. Wizards get five “levels” – seer, magician, warlock, sorcerer and wizard. Heroes fight as well as four men, and thus in D&D they are fourth level fighters. Super heroes are eighth level fighters, because they fight as well as eight men. Wizards fight as well as two men. There are special heroes called rangers – who are essentially heroes +1 (which is why AD&D rangers have two hit dice at first level).

The hero-types can attack using the mass combat table or man-to-man table against normal troops, or they can use the fantasy combat table to fight other fantasy figures. Against normal troops, heroes take 4 kills to kill, and super heroes 8.

With hero-types, you also see the origin of saving throws. Several monsters have special abilities that the hero-types can ignore if they roll above a number on 2d6.

On the fantasy table, the chances to kill are based on the type of attacker and type of defender. If a balrog is attacking a dragon, it needs to roll an 11+ on 2d6 to kill it. The dragon needs a 6+ to kill the balrog. Elves and fairies use this table (sort of) if they have a magic sword. This suggests that the inability of some monsters to be damaged by anything other than magic weapons or monsters with lots of Hit Dice originates here.

You better leave this one to me guys

OD&D Chainmail Style

If we were to carry these rules over to D&D, we would find some interesting changes. Combat between humanoids would pit weapon versus armor, not attack bonus vs. Armor Class. PC’s above first level would dominate lesser foes by the number of hits it takes to kill them, and by the number of enemies they can attack. This is an important point that often gets  lost in later editions. Melee rounds are one minute long. The number of attacks a figure gets are not a representation of how many times he can swing a sword during the round, but rather an abstraction of the number of potential chances he has to inflict damage on an opponent.

In mass combat, hero-types and monsters can attack multiple targets, but not necessarily make multiple “attacks” against a single target. This is reinforced by the fact that in fantasy combat, pitting heroes and monsters against one another, the entire combat is resolved with a single attack roll by each combatant, and no multiple hits are required to kill – it’s just one and done.

Bringing this concept into D&D could be interesting. A monster with two claw attacks and one bit attack can use them to attack three foes, but can only use any one of these attacks against a single figure.

Levels

The fantasy combat table does include the concept of improved attack ability, even though the mass combat table does not. For example:

Figure Wight Giant Dragon Balrog
Hero 6 11 12 11
Super Hero 4 9 10 9
Wizard 6 11 9 7

This table shows the target number (equal to beat) on 2d6 a figure needs to destroy the listed foes. Comparing the hero to the super hero, you see the super hero effectively gets a +2 bonus on his attacks. This translates into different percentage increases due to the nature of rolling 2d6, as opposed to 1d20. It averages out to a +25% bonus across the board (including monsters not on the table above), or a +5 bonus to hit on 1d20. Interestingly, the wizard attacks wights and giants as well as a hero, but is better than a super hero at defeating dragons and balrogs.

Improvement in “level” is more obvious for wizards in Chainmail than for heroes/super heroes. There are the five levels of magic-user, from seer to wizard. In D&D, seer is a title for 2nd level magic-users, magician for 6th level, warlock for 8th level, sorcerer for 9th and wizard for 10th.

With each level, you gain more spells, a greater range for your spells, and your chance to successfully cast spells increases. Yes – chance to cast spells. Spells come in six compexities, with a target number that must be rolled on 2d6 for the spell to happen immediately. Failure by 1 means the spell goes off in the next round. Failure by more than 1 means the spell casting fails completely.

When Chainmail became Dungeons & Dragons, they combined the idea of improved attack ability from the fantasy combat table with the multiple attacks/kills concept in the form of Hit Dice/hit points. The weapon vs. armor idea survived in AD&D as the weapons vs. Armor Class table that most of us ignored as kids, and as the combat system used in Gamma World.

In retrospect, the introduction of levels (and experience points) was a very cool idea, bringing a facet to the game absent in Chainmail. Rather than just being a “hero” wandering around a dungeon looking for treasure, you got to play out the building of a legend, from humble origins as a man-at-arms to eventual super hero status. That innovation is probably what helped build Dungeons & Dragons itself into a legend.

The Fruits of Evil

The idea of alignment – a mishmash of ethics, morality and game play – is probably familiar to most role playing gamers of the D&D persuasion – I’m not sure how (or if) the newer versions of the game use it. Whether its Law vs. Chaos (which was always really Good vs. Evil by another name) or the nine-alignment schmeer, alignment was much more integral to the earlier versions of the game than to the later.

Oft evil will shalt evil mar … and it doesn’t do good will any favors either!

In Chainmail, Law – Neutrality – Chaos was a fantasy version of the army lists you would see in many wargames. For those unfamiliar, an army based on the Normans would be chosen from a list of the kinds of soldiers common to a Norman army. For a fantasy game, lists based on Law and Chaos, with Neutrals serving in either army, made sense. This is the earliest version of alignment.

When the wargame became a role playing game, alignment was retained but became a bit more than just a cosmic allegiance, although it would still have had that role to play for characters who were building strongholds and armies for the endgame that was assumed/intended for older editions. Hey folks – that’s what all that dang treasure was for – building a stronghold and recruiting an army so you could play Chainmail!

Alignment now governed how your character behaved. This was just a simple description in Moldvay/Cook, but in AD&D it also governed access to certain tactics – i.e. evil can use poison, good cannot – and helped determined how expensive it was to gain a new level. Again, for those who do not know how AD&D worked, to reach a higher level you required training, and the cost of that training was more expensive if you had acted outside your alignment while earning your experience points.

Later editions took a path more like “good guys are supposed to be good, evil are supposed to be evil … but then what is evil really?” Sort of like “alignment relatavism”.

What if evil simply corrupts a character and ruins his or her plans? I don’t mean a supernatural corruption here – like the taint of Chaos in Warhammer. I mean, by committing an evil act, a character begins a chain of events that eventually overtakes and destroys them unless they find their way back to the path of good. Here, you don’t really even need a character to have an alignment, you just have to know what is good and what is evil, and no that by accomplishing goals with evil methods, that evil is going

He eventually made his point

to come back to haunt you eventually. We find this theme in many stories, especially the folktales, fables and fairy tales that form part of the foundation of D&D.

I just recently watched Majin: The Monster of Terror (or Daimajin in its original title), and its one representation of this concept. I won’t give it away for those who haven’t seen it – and I do heartily recommend it – but if you watch it you will see how the bad guy ultimately screws himself. You can create a tragic and powerful storyline as characters find success by employing evil tactics and then gradually find themselves corrupted, choosing evil over good to get out of bad situations they have precipitated, until all seems lost.

“So we used poison to kill the orc king – so what? The orcs are evil, so what’s the big deal?”

How might that act come back to haunt the adventurers?

Well, where did they get the poison – perhaps some evil organization or creature who will become a bigger threat than the orcs. Maybe the use of poison negates the protection provided by a good entity to a kingdom – the short cut in fighting evil then ushers in more sorrows for the kingdom, and gradually the king and his people find out who is responsible. Maybe the orcs had friends who would have accepted their defeat in combat as fair, but figure poisoning requires vengeance. You destroy 100 orcs only to raise the ire of 10,000 orcs living deeper underground. There’s also the issue of trust. Can the player characters trust one another when they’ll use any means to get what they want?

Can the adventurers find their way back to the path of good? Role playing of this variety can add another dimension to a game about adventuring, fighting and treasure hunting, and reveal the philosophies behind “alignment” in a way that arbitrary rules about who can use poison and how much gold it takes it get to 5th level do not.