Guns! Guns! Guns!

Do you feel lucky punk? Well, then roll for initiative …

I’m not exactly a gun nut. I’ve fired a gun, once, at a Christmas outing, but other than that I’ve never had much of a fetish for the things. Yet, now I find myself working on Action X and needing to educate myself about the things.

The Modern SRD, on which I’m loosely basing Action X, has gun stats, of course, but I need a bit more. I plan on including in Action X a variety of “eras” in which to game – Victorian, Pulp, Atomic, etc. That means I need to chart guns from the 1860’s or so to the modern game, and therefore need a system, of sorts, to figure out what’s what with these things.

One way to go would be to simplify it – pistols, rifles, battle rifles, sub machine guns, light machine guns, medium machine guns, heavy machine guns, with damage following suit: Pistols do 1d6, rifles do 1d8, battle rifles 1d10, etc. I think, though, that many folks who are attracted to modern gaming like the idea of different guns – Bond’s Walther PPK, Dirty Harry’s S&W Model 29 .44 Magnum, etc. So, again, I need a system.

My solution (at the moment, anyhow) is to base damage on two factors – calibre and muzzle velocity. In other words, how much mass is hitting the target and at what speed. Rate of fire I think I’ll handle with an abstract “burst” mechanism – probably handled as a burst multiple that can either count as multiple damage on a single target or can spread among multiple targets, with the traditional penalty to hit multiple targets. So, a gun with a burst factor of “x3” could either be used to score triple damage on a single target, or used to score normal damage on up to 3 targets.

Anyhow – here’s my little matrix for gun damage. I’m beginning the damage at d6, and dropping damage by one dice size for balls vs. bullets.

Calibre is rounded off, and muzzle velocity is in feet per second. Using these numbers, Bond’s Walther PPK does 1d6+1 points of damage, while Dirty Harry’s .44 magnum (Smith & Wesson Model 29) does 1d8+1 points of damage.

Currently, I’ve been gathering data from Wikipedia on various guns – have a little database of 416 so far, with quite a few more to go and plenty of missing pieces of data – and should be able to put together some decent gun lists for each era of the game. And yes, I’ll be putting the database up on Google Docs for folks to download at some point.

Apocalypse 1898 – Introduction

Here’s a quick introduction to the Apocalypse 1898 setting …

It has been almost a decade since the civilizations of man were laid low by the invaders, and man’s dominion over much of the Earth was brought to a close. The invaders came not like a natural disaster, blind and deaf, to the planet, but with a cold, calculating intelligence. They knew what to destroy and how to destroy it. They knew how to win, and they did win.

But victory does not mean survival. Though they cast mankind’s progress back 500 years, the invaders did not survive to enjoy their victory. Now, the remnants of human civilization struggles to reclaim its former glory. This is no easy task though. Mankind’s factories were largely destroyed and their rail systems uprooted. Canals, rivers and seashores are clogged with the red weed of the invaders, making travel by boat exceedingly difficult and slow.

The 10 or 20 percent of humanity that survived the apocalypse from Mars operate with Medieval technology amid the ruins of a much more advanced civilization, one of steam, gas light and telegraph. Many people dwell in small, fortified villages, trembling in the night at the sound of the wolves at their door. A surprising number of people, however, still eke out an existence in the urban ruins.

In New York, once one of the world’s mightiest cities, the boroughs are now ruled as baronies by ruthless political machines and criminal gangs that hold power with fear and violence (well, maybe things haven’t changed much after all). In the rubble clogged streets and amid the crumbling edifices of the Gilded Age, men and women struggle for daily survival while plunging into subterranean vaults in search of their own lost marvels and technological wonders left behind by the invaders. With these tools, brave men and women can forge a new civilization on the ruins of the old.

Welcome to Apocalypse 1898.

Apocalypse 1898 attempts to combine two popular adventure tropes: the Victorian era and its wondrous scientific romances and the concept of the post-apocalyptic world, where man has lost his tools and must live again as an animal. The notion of a Victorian apocalypse is not new, the genre having been invented by the Victorians themselves. Apocalypse 1898 focuses in particular on the ruins of New York that were left behind after the infamous invasion by Mars written about in H.G. Wells’ War of the Worlds.

Apocalypse 1898 is a role playing game, in which a band of players take on the rolls of people attempting to survive and thrive in the post-apocalyptic New York of 1898. One player is the Referee, and he or she runs the adventures and adjudicates the rules when necessary. The game is primarily played with pencils, paper and a complete set of dice, including the traditional six-sided dice most often found in games as well as dice with four, eight, ten, twelve and twenty sides. A healthy dose of imagination is also required to bring the setting and the struggles of the characters to life.

This book explains the rules of play and describes the setting of New York in more detail. It also offers advice for the Referee in terms of running the game and writing adventures for the players.

After you have read the rules, gather your players, elect your Referee, grab some paper, pencils and dice and begin your exploration of Apocalypse 1898!

Image from OBI Scrapbook Blog – by Albert Robida, illustrating a European family going downtown to dine in a series of caricatures about war in the 20th century.

Apocalypse 1898 – I’m No Fool

Wow – within a day my last post becomes one of my most popular posts ever. I’m no fool, so it’s time to milk this a bit.

Apocalypse 1898 is the working title. Good / Bad / Whaddya think?

I’ll use a variation on Target 10 for the basic rules.

Here is my outline so far:

Ability Scores
Strength, Dexterity, Intelligence, Charisma; roll 3d6 for each to determine the score (will run from 1 to 9).

Each ability score is tied to several “skills”. For each ability, based on your score, you get to pick a number of these skills as “class skills” so to speak (i.e. you add your character’s skill bonus and ability score to them when your testing them, as opposed to just adding your ability score.

Score / No. of Skills
1-3 / choose one skill
4-5 / choose two skills
6-9 / choose three skills

In addition, you choose one additional skill from your highest ability category as your specialty (an additional +3 to tests)


Strength: Pugilism, swordplay, resist disease, resist poison, resist pain and exhaustion, wrestling, breaking and bending, leaping, climbing, swimming

Dexterity: Archery, throwing, gunplay, legerdemain, duck and cover, lock picking, riding, creep silently, lurk in shadows

Intelligence: Scholarship, decipher codes and languages, invent device, concoct formula, appraise value, discover clue, survival, pilot ship, occult knowledge

Charisma: Size up opposition, play instrument, sing and dance, command, charm, suggest, resist domination, trickery

Roll 1d20, add bonuses – penalties – try to meet or beat a 10 (i.e. Target 10)

Difficulties impose a -3 penalty (cumulative) on a roll – determined by Ref, but I’d give some examples

Other Stats /Abilities
Hit Points: 1d6 per point of Strength (+3 for specialization with any combat-oriented skill)
Equipment: One roll on random equipment chart per point of Charisma
Armor Class: 5 + Dex + armor bonus
Languages: One per point of Intelligence (or 2 slots to become literate in a language)

You can start at one of three “levels”

Novice: Has a skill bonus of +3 and 3 luck points
Veteran: Has a skill bonus of +6 and 1 luck point
Master: Has a skill bonus of +9 and 0 luck points

As always in Target 10, luck points are used to get automatic successes on rolls, or impose automatic failures on your opponents. You can also trade them for things like extra equipment

This may change as I delve into the period literature, but for now …

Human: Gets 1 extra luck point
Freak: Get one mutation (see below)
Invader: Str -2, Int +2; gets “resist disease” as a bonus skill

The mutations are going to be inspired more by PT Barnum’s freak show than by what you find in most mutant games. Things like bestial appearance, horrific appearance, gigantism, pinhead, etc. No death rays. All of them would have a boon and a drawback attached to them.

You can work magic with this skill, but you must take it as a specialty.

There would be a list of magical operations with a Difficulty Class (DC) for each – like the psychic abilities in Space Princess. Maybe you would be required to have training in one to use it – perhaps you have as many “spells” as you have points of skill.

Character Packages
I’d probably include some sample character packages – if nothing else for use as quick NPCs. All of them would assume a “4” in three ability scores and a “6” in the fourth

Adventurer/Adventuress – explorers, doers of great deeds – Nellie Bly comes to mind

Gentleman/Lady – the gentry, educated and charming
Athlete – John L Sullivan comes to mind
Cowboy – Teddy Roosevelt, Buffalo Bill
Magician – Madame Blavatsky
Inventor – Tesla, Edison

An example might be …

Cowboy (Veteran)
STR 4: Pugilism (10), Wrestling (10)
DEX 6: Duck & Cover (12), Gunplay (12), Riding* (15)
INT 4: Discover Clue (10), Survival (10)
CHA 4: Play Instrument (Guitar or Harmonica) (10), Resist Domination (10)

Gangster (Veteran)
STR 4: Climbing (10), Pugilism (10)
DEX 6: Creep Silently (12), Legerdemain (12), Lurk in Shadows* (15)
INT 4: Appraise Value (10), Survival (10)
CHA 4: Resist Domination (10), Trickery (10)

This would probably be restricted to a few giant versions of animals – giant rats, giant spiders. Would replace Novice/Veteran/Master with Small/Medium/Large and otherwise use the same ability scores and a bunch of skills (common sense here, not using the same rules as character creation), with some special abilities added in where necessary.

The setting is New York. The game would describe the different boroughs and neighborhoods in the post-invasion setting. The main goal would be survival – food and water, not being beaten and robbed – as in “Warriors … Come hither and play!” type stuff. Of course, build up a reputation, a small army, some Invader weaponry and maybe you can knock down the doors of Tammany Hall and start running the joint.

To Verne or Not To Verne – That is the Question
The comments on the last post suggest people want some full scale Victorian Jules Verne sci-fi in this game. I’m not opposed to it, but it may occupy a separate chapter so people can either play a grim and gritty (though slightly tongue-in-cheek) romp through Victorian post-apocalyptic New York City, and others can include various sci-fi modules to make the game more in the steampunk vein.

Otherwise, the only “scientific romance” elements are going to be the surviving invaders and their weapons, and the supernatural abilities (which could be included as an add-on module as well, since some might prefer not to play Cabalists and Cowboys).

Inspirational Nonsense = Victorian Post-Apocalyptic RPG

I was checking out Yesterday’s Papers today and they had several scans from American comic weeklies – essentially illustrated newspapers. This particular image caught my eye:


A nice mash-up of Victoriana and Medieval armor and weapons. Perhaps we’re looking at a Victorian Post-Apocalypse in New York City – Escape from New York meets Gangs of New York meets The Age of Innocence (Lord, now I sound like a Hollywood producer pitching a movie).

What would be the foundation of a Victorian Apocalypse? Perhaps an early ice age? Or better yet – an invasion from Mars (i.e. H.G. Wells’ martians from War of the Worlds)! Yes – I can see it now. The Invaders come, deliver terrible destruction, and then mostly die off, leaving the world in tatters. Food supplies are choked off by the Martian weed (the same stuff they lived on on Barsoom until the coming of the Invaders to that planet and the final destruction of the native Barsoomian civilizations), and now people live like barbarians amid the shattered remnants of the Gilded Age.

Imagine – Steam-driven privateers in NY harbor, gang leaders and Tammany Hall fight over control of the buroughs and seek out the canisters of Black Smoke left by the Invaders, occultists (from demon summoning Golden Dawn-ers to golem-making esoteric rabbis to your run-of-the-mill fortune tellers) as powers behind the throne, people mutated by the Martian weaponry and the strange radiations they brought with them (since it’s the 19th century, maybe we’ll call them freaks instead of mutants), Tesla cobbling together wonders from scavenged Martian technology (this could be an era where the surviving Victorians go straight from steam to atomic power – locomotives to the space age in one giant leap), etc.

I could also profile such heroes of the age as cowboy Teddy Roosevelt, adventuress Nellie Bly and inventor Nicola Tesla (and Lord, what kind of secret empire would Edison control?).



I’ll slate this project for a late 2013 release. Should be fun!


Now This Is the Seed of a Game …

Map of San Fran’s Chinatown in 1885. And I mean hardcore Chinatown – tongs and exiled princesses and foolish Occidentals and opium dens and weird dragon cults and foo dogs and all that good stuff. I have to do something with this …


Oh – and Emperor Norton. Have to throw in Emperor Norton, just for fun. Maybe it could be a supplement to Action X? Or a board game – like Monopoly but with tongs and kung-fu.

Map from THE BIG MAP BLOG, the internet’s premier source for BIG MAPS! When you’re in the mood for a BIG MAP, think THE BIG MAP BLOG.

Action X

Action X is an idea I had for a mini-game based on a team of highly trained individuals (mercenaries, soldiers, spies) a’la Mission: Impossible, G.I. Joe (no, not the movie) or the A-Team being sent on a mission to do, well, something action-y and dangerous. Basically – modernized D-n-D built around TV and movie tropes.

My idea for characters is to use the basic notion of Rookie – Veteran – Old Timer as in Space Princess, but to base all character abilities on a set of skills.

Taking the veteran level as an example, he might have five trained skills, three mastered skills and one specialty skill. The idea here, a’la G.I. Joe’s “primary speciality” or assembling an Impossible Mission team is that each character comes in with a specific expertise – the Electronics Expert, the Seduction Expert, the Intelligence Expert, the Demolitions Expert, etc.

The training level at which one takes a skill (ranging from acrobatics to electronics to the use of a specific weapon or martial art) corresponds with the bonus to use that skill/weapon: +3 for trained, +6 for mastered and +9 for specialty. The basic rules would be Target 10 (i.e. compare your ability to opponent’s or general difficulty level to find your die modifier, roll 1d20 and try to get a ’10’ or higher).

Each time a skill is used during a mission, there is a 1 in 6 chance that the character gets a +1 boost to a trained ability, a 1 in 10 chance on a mastered ability and a 1 in 20 chance on their specialty. Maybe after one mission, Mr. X gets a bump to his acrobatics skill and we now classify it as Trained +1. Qualified abilities cannot be bumped beyond +5 and mastered abilities beyond +8. One’s primary specialty has no limit to how far it can be bumped. Successful use of a skill/weapon the character is not trained in also carries a 1 in 20 chance of getting a boost (Untrained +1), with a max bonus there of +2.

Besides character creation and advancement, the major notion behind Action X would be random missions. I need to come up with a way the Ref could randomize the mission objective, the location, the key enemies and their abilities (there would have to be templates of stock villains), a complication for at least one of the characters and the place to be “invaded”. Not sure where to go with that yet.

Still plenty of work to do on this idea, which I would probably stick in an issue of NOD in 2012.

The Luminaries of 1800

Just to get folks into the spirit of the time, here’s a list of some of the personalities active in 1800, with a few notations concerning the alternate history of the game.

John Adams (Age 65) – President of the Massachusetts Commonwealth.

Johnny Appleseed (Age 26) – John Chapman, A missionary from Massachusetts known for his planting of apple orchards in the Ohio Country. Follower of the The New Church of the Christian mystic Emanuel Swedenborg.

John Armstrong (Age 45) – Frontiersman, soldier and jurist born in New Netherland, explorer of the Ohio Country.

John Jacob Astor (Age 37) – Merchant involved in fur trading, real estate and opium; An immigrant to New Netherland from Germany, he becomes the continent’s first multi-millionaire.

Jane Austen (Age 25) – English novelist, has completed Lady Susan, First Impressions and Sir Charles Grandison or the happy Man, a comedy in 6 acts and is working on Northanger Abbey.

Tony Beaver (Age ???) – Woodsman from Vandalia Territory of Virginia; champion griddle skater of the Virginia Commonwealth.

Daniel Boone (Age 66) – Old scout from the Transylvania Territory of Virginia and founder of the territorial capitol Booneborough, he has by 1800 moved into the French territory of Louisiane, to the Femme Osage territory and has hunted far into the “Mysterious Interior”

William Augustus Bowles (Age 37) – Also known as Estajoca, a Marylander who settled among the Muskogee of Florida and now serves as the leader of the Muskogee Republic.

Meshach Browning (Age 19) – Backwoodsman from Maryland; hunter and explorer of the North Branch Potomac and Youghiogheny Rivers.

Nathaniel “Natty” Bumppo (Age 87) – Old frontiersman from New Netherland, now settled among the Kansa in Lousiane.

Paul Bunyan (Age ???) – French canadian logger of massive proportions dwelling in the northern woods.

John C Calhoun (1782-1850, Age 18) – Farmer living in the backwoods of Carolina.

Jean Pierre Chouteau (Age 42) – “River Baron” and fur trader in St. Louis, Lousiane.

William Clark (Age 30) – Soldier from the Transylvania Territory of Virginia.

Henry Clay (Age 23) – Lawyer and warhawk of Transylvania Territory, he accompanied Aaron Burr on his adventure into the west, helping establish the Texican Republic.

Count of St. Germain – An immortal alchemist who developed the elixir of life and wrote The Most Holy Trinosophia. Was known as Francis Bacon in 16th century England.

Davy Crocket (Age 14) – Young man from the Franklin Free State, by 14 he’s already spent a few years in the wilderness after running away from home over not going to school.

Don Alejandro de la Vega (Age 46) – Popular alcalde of Reina de los Angeles, elevated to the Presidente of the California Republic.

Louis Claude de Saint-Martin (Age 57) – French philosophe; in 1771 he left the French army to become a preacher of mysticism. His properties confiscated during French Revolution, he fled with the Queen and her son to Lousiane.

Mike Fink (Age 30) – “King of the Keelboaters”, born in Fort Pitt in New Netherland, he operates boats on the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers.

Hezekiah Frith (Age 37) – British gentleman privateer from Bermuda.

Robert Fulton (Age 35) – American engineer and inventor of steam-driven boats; working on a submarine design (Nautilus) for Napoleon.

Gasparillo (Age 44) – Jose Gaspar, last of the Spanish buccaneers who raids the Florida coast.

Simon Girty (Age 59) – Born in New Netherland, he and his brother were kidnapped and adopted by Senecas; Girty preferred the Native American way of life and dwells with them in the Ohio Country.

William Henry Harrison (Age 27) – Soldier of Virginia, serving in that nation’s attempted colonization of the Ohio Country.

Inali (Age 54) – Also Black Fox, he is the brother-in-law of Dragging Canoe and chief of Ustanali town in the Cherokee Nation.

Incalatanga (Age 56) – Also Doublehead; feared warrior of the Cherokee during the Chickamauga War.

Andrew Jackson (Age 33) – A lawyer and politician dwelling in the wilds of Carolina’s western territory of Tennessee; soon to lead a Carolinian army against the Franklin Free Staters.

Thomas Jefferson (Age 57) – President of the Commonwealth of Virginia, he would like to see his country remain independent (i.e. he is an opponent of the unionists) and spread into the Illinois Country and beyond.

John the Conqueror (Age ???) – Also known as High John the Conqueror, John de Conquer; African prince sold as slave in America, he escapes and survives as a trickster figure. John fell in love with the devil’s daughter Eulalie.

Simon Kenton (1755-1836, Age 45) – Frontiersman born in the Bull Run Mountains in Virginia; fled into the wilderness of Transylvania at Age 16 because he thought he had killed a man.

Diedrick Knickerbocker (Age ???) – Elderly scholar of New Amsterdam.

Konieschquanoheel (Age 75) – Also known as Hopocan or Captain Pipe, he is a chief of the Lenape and a member of the Wolf Clan. He was allied with the British during the revolution and attacks settlements in western New Netherland; eventually leads his people into the Ohio Country.

Kunokeski (Age ???) – Also John Watts or Young Tassel, a leader of the Chickamauga (Lower Cherokee). He is kin to Doublehead and Pumpkin Boy and uncle of Sequoyah. Principal chief of the Chickamauga.

Jean Lafitte (Age 24) – Born in Saint-Dominque (Haiti); moved with his mother to La Nouvelle-Orleans after she marries merchant Pedro Aubry; explorer of the Bayou.

Marie Laveau (Age 6) – Future voodoo queen of La Nouvelle-Orleans. Daughter of white planter and free Creole woman of color.

Meriwether Lewis (Age 26) – Former soldier and favorite of Virginia’s President Jefferson.

Manuel Lisa (Age 28) – Scoundrel and fur trader from St. Louis in Louisiane.

George Lisle (1750-1820, Age 50) – Born into slavery in Virginia, he was eventually taken to Georgia, he was converted to Christianity by Rev. Matthew Moore; freed by his owner Henry Sharp, he traveled to Savannah and founded a Baptist congregation. He migrated with the British to Jamaica to avoid slavery in post-revolution Georgia.

Little Turkey (Age 42) – Elected First Beloved Man by the general council of the Cherokee after murder of Corntassel in 1788; he is the Principal Chief of the Cherokee Nation.

Samuel Hall Lord (Age 22) – Buccaneer of Barbados; owns a castle-mansion.

Makataimeshekiakiak (Age 33) – Sauk war leader also known as Black Hawk; dwells in the Illinois County claimed by the Commonwealth of Virginia.

Samuel Mason (Age 61) – Virginian; Former captain of militia during the revolution; leader of river pirates and highwaymen on the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers. Presumably he has clashed with Mike Fink on more than one occaision.

Franz Mesmer (Age 66) – A German philosophe living in Paris, he theorized the existence of animal magnetism and other spiritual forces grouped together as mesmerism – his ideas led to the development of hypnotism by Scottish surgeon James Braid.

Zebulon Montgomery Pike, Jr. (Age 21) – A captain in the army of New Netherland, he is serving in the Ohio Country.

Philip Nolan (Age 29) – Horse-trader and freebooter who helps Aaron Burr found the Texican Republic; born in Belfast and well-educated. Now leads the Texican Rangers.

Nunnehidihi (Age 29) – AKA Major Ridge; Cherokee leader born into the Deer Clan in Cherokee town of Great Hiwassee. Grandfather was a highland Scot. He participates in wars against the Franklin Free Staters.

Thomas Paine (Age 63) – Author, pamphleteer, radical inventor, intellectual, revolutionary. Dwelling in France and planning with Napoleon the invasion of England, possibly with the help of Fulton’s submarines.

Joseph Priestly (Age 67) – English theologian, Dissenting clergyman, philosophe and educator; discovered oxygen and invented soda water, explored electricity with Benjamin Franklin. He now dwells in New Netherland.

Paul Revere (Age 65) – Prominent Bostonian, he meets at the Green Dragon Tavern with the Massachusetts Charitable Mechanic Association.

Benjamin Rush (Age 54) – Member of the Sons of Liberty and a Freemason. New Netherlander physician, writer, educator, humanitarian and Christian Universalist, as well as founder of Dickinson College. Opponent of slavery and capital punishment, the real Dr. Rush would be called on to provide medicines to the Lewis & Clark expedition, including Turkish opium for nervousness, emetics to induce vomiting, medicinal wine and 600 of Dr. Rush’s Bilious Pills – Rush’s Thunderbolts or thunderclappers – mega-laxitives containing 50% mercury.

Sacagawea (1788-1812, Age 12) – Shoshone maiden kidnapped by the Hidatsa and taken to their village in far northern Louisiane.

Sequoyah (Age 30) – Also George Guess; Cherokee silversmith. His mother was of the Paint Clan and his brother John Watts (q.v.).

John Sevier (Age 55) – Governor of Franklin; born in Virginia of French Huguenot blood. Served in the revolutionary army.

Daniel Shays (Age 53) – Led a rebellion against the Commonwealth of Massachusetts over unpaid wages to veterans of the revolution. Pardoned by then Pres. Hancock, he now lives in New Netherland.

Philip Shuyler (Age 67) – Grand Pensionary of the United Provinces of New Netherland.

Venture Smith (Age 71) – African slave brought to America as a child; born Broteer Furro in Guinea, the son of a prince with several wives. He purchased his freedom in 1765. Dwells in New Netherland as a woodsman; over 6 feet tall, weighed 300 pounds and carried a 9 pound axe for felling trees.

John Stevens (Age 51) – Lawyer, engineer and inventor of New Netherland. Captain in the revolutionary army, he is interested in powering boats with steam engines.

Tecumseh (Age 32) – Shawnee war leader licking his wounds in the vicinity of Fort Green Ville in the Ohio Country (founded by Gen. “Mad” Anthony Wayne of New Netherland, recently deceased).

Thayendanegea (Age 57) – Also known as Joseph Brant; a Mohawk of the Wolf Clan, he dwells in Upper Canada and plots with the French to effect a revolution.

Isaac Tichenor (Age 46) – Governor of the Vermont Republic, a secret unionist of New Netherland extraction.

Rip Van Winkle (Age ???) – Ordinary fellow and supernatural curiosity dwelling in New Netherland.

Daniel Webster (1782-1852, Age 18) – Schoolmaster in Massachusetts’ New Hampshire province. He hasn’t yet encountered Old Scratch.

Mason Locke Weems (1759-1825, Age 41) – American author and book agent, a unionist who has written apocryphal stories of the men who fought the revolution; called Parson Weems. A Marylander, he now dwells in the Commonwealth of Virginia.

Eli Whitney (Age 35) – Inventor from Massachusetts, invented cotton gin in 1793 and is manufacturing muskets with interchangeable parts for the Mass. army.

Dominique You (Age 25) – Haitian artillerist, half-brother of Jean Lafitte.

Magic in 1800

My last 1800 post sparked some discussion (okay, two comments) about magic. Here are my thoughts …

Regarding replacing magic because the setting is more ripe for science – I originally thought about going the science route. It was done in Northern Crown and I’ve certainly mixed science with fantasy in other projects, but for this one I wanted to go the pure magic route. Why? First and foremost, I think the “steampunk” concept tends to completely take over a setting and game. I didn’t want to do that with 1800. I wanted the game to focus on wilderness exploration, which (point number two) leaves science types without the use of a workshop or spare parts, and thus forces us to really stretch the imagination to fit him in. Of course, one can also just use magic and call it science, but that wasn’t a satisfying option for me.

Finally, science and non-human powered machinery as we know it today is really just at its beginnings in 1800 – you’ve had a manned flight in balloon across the English Channel and some demonstrations of steam engines, but steam power hasn’t come to dominate the imagination and landscape just yet. Magic, superstition and pseudo-science, on the other hand, are still alive and well. Consider that the medical training Lewis received for his and Clark’s western exploration involved lots of bleeding and laxatives that were 50% mercury (and that mercury in the explorers’ droppings has apparently helped historians track the Corps of Discovery’s progress across the continent), the presence of esoteric groups like the Freemasons, Rosicrucians, Illuminati and the Invisible College (well, the Royal Society, by this time), and, most importantly, the existence of Native American medicine men and shamans.

This, along with my desire to include fantasy-style monsters in the “Mysterious Interior of America” seemed to make old-style magicians, powered down a bit for the setting, the way to go. Of course, somebody running an 1800 campaign could remove the magic or even introduce a more science-intensive class (perhaps the Mechanician) as they like. Once I publish something, you can house rule it to death for all I care!

So, what will the Magician class look like in the game. My initial sketch has it looking something like this (all subject to change, of course) …

Magicians are men and women who have learned through long study and practice to work magic – breaking the laws of nature and delving into the secret knowledge of the supernatural through the use of special formulas of words, movements and materials. Magicians come in many different varieties, from the intellectual European tradition typified by the likes of John Dee, Isaac Newton and Benjamin Franklin to the servants of the Abrahamic God and the workers of folk magic, be they Dutch hexenmeisters, witches from Naumkeag or Native American medicine men.

Skills: Decipher Code (Knowledge), Identify Plants (Knowledge), Predict Weather (Knowledge), Translate Language (Knowledge), Work Magic (Knowledge)

Choosing a tradition determines one’s spell powers. To work magic, a magician has a percentage chance equal to their skill bonus + knowledge score – the difficulty of the magic (see below). Failure always has a consequence, and they can potentially be dire.

Missionaries, Friars and Soldiers of God
Cantraps: Calm Emotions, Chant, Cure Light Wounds, Protection from Evil (10’ Radius)
Spells (-25%): Divination, Flame Strike, Heal, Holy Smite
Rituals (-50%): Control Water, Control Weather, Earthquake, Holy Word
Master Ritual (-90%): Summon Angel

Alchemists, Philosophers and Freemasons
Cantraps: Dispel Magic, Divination, ESP, Invisibility
Spells (-25%): Break Enchantment, Fly, Hold Monster, Lightning Bolt
Rituals (-50%): Astral Projection, Legend Lore, Repulsion, Shapechange
Master Ritual (-90%): Summon Elemental

Witches, Hexenmeisters, Hoodoo Men, Medicine Men and Granny Women
Cantraps: Calm Animals, Divination, Plant Growth, Wind Wall
Spells (-25%): Commune with Nature, Control Winds, Fly, Summon Animal
Rituals (-50%): Control Weather, Shapechange, Summon Monster [i.e. creatures from folklore and mythology], Whirlwind
Master Ritual (-90%): Summon Spirit [White Buffalo, Rainbow Serpent, Thunderbird – maybe something different for the European folk magic practitioners]

There would also be an NPC category dedicated to Black Magic. The spell descriptions would  include an idea of the material components required. Cantraps could be cast in a round, spells maybe in 2 successive rounds, rituals in 3 and the master ritual over 4. Obviously, we don’t want master magicians pulling angels and elementals out of their hats very often.

That should give you an idea of where my mind is on this subject at the moment. I’ll probably fool with the spell lists some more.

Final bonus – the map continues to shape up. I’ve filled in the Yucatan and some of the islands of the Caribbean and added a few settlements, mostly in the Deep South and in the area of Maine. When all of the settlements are done, I’ll be able to focus on drawing rivers and coasts.

1800 – American Empires

I swear I wasn’t looking for another project. It’s just that I’m a history guy – majored in it in college – and this idea has just worked it’s way into my imagination. 1800 is a pretty interesting time in American history – even an alternate history – and couched as it is between the Revolutionary War and the Civil War it gets less attention that it probably should.

So, what is 1800 – American Empires going to be? At its heart, a homage to old school RPGs and the greatest school video game ever conceived – The Oregon Trail.

Simple RPG based around wilderness exploration, so old school logistics looms large (i.e. how much gunpowder should you pack for a 6 months – 2 year foray into the wilderness?)

Four classes – scout (man vs. nature), soldier (man vs. man), venturer (does the caller and mapper) and magician (with three “traditions” – free mason, missionary and shaman/witch, each with their own small list of usable spells). I’m going to go with the Space Princess concept here of three-tiered classes based on what you want to play rather than “start and level 1 and work your way up”. If you start young (a lieutenant, for example), you begin with more luck. If you start old (a colonel), you begin with no luck and have to rely on skill. Major discoveries and acts of heroism can earn anyone luck.

Rules for exploration and combat – wilderness exploration rules adapted from an early issue of NOD, combat from old versions of “the original fantasy RPG”

A few set hex encounters (major settlements, mostly) + a BIG set of random exploration tables based on the different environments. That way, every campaign will present a different American interior, complete with what you would expect (Native American settlements, herds of buffalo, droughts and blizzards, new rivers, diseases and mishaps), things our forefathers thought they might discover (Welsh indians, cities of gold, mammoths, a Northwest Passage) and things they never imagined (griffons and storm giants in the Rocky Mountains, bulettes on the Great Plains).

A big list of monsters, including many from Native American folklore and some of the “fearsome critters” of lumberjack folklore. I’ll probably also throw in some stats for actual and fictional personalities of the time – Daniel Boone, Natty Bumppo, Johnny Appleseed and Black Hawk, for example.

Settlement rules – what we in the old school would call “domain rules” – establishing forts, attracting settlers, defending the fort from other proto-Empires. Mass combat rules will probably be adapted from Swords and Wizardry to keep them simple.

So, that’s the basic idea. An old school RPG that swaps out the mega-dungeon for a mega-wilderness, with enough heft that one could spin it into other directions – maybe a spy mission in New Spain, fighting night hags in Salem or helping in the Free Mason’s conspiracy to actually unite the independent states of America into a single nation.