Star Trek at Rules Lite Speed

Playing around on the Internet Archive recently, I came upon some old issues of Different Worlds magazine. This was a magazine I was unaware of in my youth, and I’ve enjoyed looking at another take on the RPG world in its infancy. One article in particular, “Kirk on Karit 2” by Emmet F. Milestone in issue No. 4 (1979) brought to my attention the first licensed Star Trek RPG, Star Trek – Adventure Gaming in the Final Frontier. I did a little hunting, and found a copy for sale, and I’m glad I did.

Written by Michael Scott in 1978 for Heritage Models to support their range of Star Trek miniatures, Star Trek (which is what I’ll call it from now on in this review to save time and space) is a dandy little game – very old school, very rules lite. In fact, some folks seem to think it a little too rules lite, but not me. I love discovering these little games from the hobby’s origins, because they remind you just how much you can do with a very light rules set.

Here are a few highlights –

The game is very focused on its mission, which is to simulate Star Trek landing parties – I think it does this pretty well. In fact, you could spin this thing into doing Star Trek dungeon crawls with very little trouble.

Being written in 1978, it is all original Trek, including the animated series, which I really dig. This means you get stats for creatures like the K’zin and Skorr.

The rules are really simple – in the basic and advanced versions – and meld pretty well with old school D&D. The six ability scores are Strength, Dexterity, Constitution, Charisma, Luck and Mentality. Not too difficult to track those to D&D. Ability scores range from 3 to 18 (3d6). Characters get a modifier that is positive for every point a score is above 12 and a negative for every point a score is below 9. They also have a hand-to-hand combat value and equipment. In th basic game, you play one of the characters from actual Star Trek – Kirk, Spock, McCoy, etc. In the advanced game you can roll up a character yourself.

Sometimes hand-to-hand means butt-to-face

Combat is simple – roll 1d6 to attack, adding strength, dexterity and hand-to-hand bonus to determine total potential damage while the defender subtracts 1d6 plus luck and hand-to-hand modifiers. The resulting damage, if there is any left, is deducted from the defender’s constitution score. If damage equals more than half of the character’s remaining constitution, they are knocked out. Ranged combat is a little different, but just as simple – you have to roll below a number based on your dexterity score, with modifiers for a few common situations. Damage is based on the ranged weapon used.

The advanced game has more hand-to-hand weapons, which involve rolling more d6’s for the attack, and armor to reduce damage suffered.

Skill checks are a roll of 3d6 which must be less than or equal to whatever ability score makes the most sense. If Spock is trying to use his tri-corder to pick up signs of life, he makes a roll against his Mentality. Easy … but I would personally change it to a d20 roll rather than 3d6.

Psionic powers work basically the same way – roll under Mentality.

There is no experience point or leveling system in the game, but the author mentions that as characters succeed in adventures their hand-to-hand rating can improve or they can get bonuses to certain tasks. I like the idea of advancement being kind of arbitrary, though you would need a good Mission Master to keep things from getting out of hand.

The game has stats for all sorts of Star Trek monsters – again, a Trek dungeon would probably be lots of fun. Given that Kirk and Spock had to deal with ancient Rome, the Roaring ’20s and the Old West, a dungeon crawl would not be too outrageous … and nicknaming the hirelings “red shirts” would be entirely appropriate.

Spock: “I use my tricorder to scan for life forms on the other side of the door.”

MM: Rolling … “You detect no life forms.”

Kirk: “I bust open the door and somersault into the room.”

MM: The room contains four Klingon warriors – roll for initiative!

I really grok how simple this game is – you can pick it up and get going within minutes if you have players who understand the basics of role playing games and Star Trek. I especially love that it instantly lit a fire in me to play it and play with it – why not work up quick stats for Doctor Who characters and creatures, or Star Wars or Next Generation or whatever – it would be so easy!

If you get a chance, check it out. Expect simplicity, “rulings not rules” and lots of thinking on your feet, but also a game that you can get up and running quickly.

Also – check out that article I mentioned above – Emmet F. Milestone came up with a dandy little scheme for characters falling in love with one another – a must if Kirk is in your boarding party, though as Emmet often remarks, “Kirk has no luck in love, so his Luck modifier is never added in a Romance Roll”. I instantly want to use this in my next D&D dungeon crawl.

Heritage Star Trek miniatures – image found at Noble Knight Games

Shadowlord! – A Timely Review

Once upon a time, a young me and my best friend Josh played a wondrous game of universal conquest. I have no idea where Josh got the game – maybe a gift, maybe stole it from his brother’s room. No idea. But it was awesome. There was this board with all these circles on it, and cards with cool pictures of people, including this one really hot chick that Josh and I both wanted on our team, and you did stuff in it and … stuff.

That was around about 1985, and years later I had no freaking idea what game I had played and enjoyed so much, and a few searches based on my scanty memories yielded nothing.

And then, one day in 2017, I was searching games on Etsy for some inspiration and found it. Shadowlord!! There are two exclamation points there because the game has a name ending with an exclamation point. I bought the game on Etsy, it was delivered a couple weeks ago, and last night, I finally played it again, this time with wife and daughter.

So how did it go?

Still awesome. Shadowlord! is a cool strategy game, with some nice random events and a requirement to think things through. This, of course, is why I was out on my second turn after going all in on a silly gambit. I was stupid, and the rules rightfully destroyed me.

The game involves playing one of four factions led by the Fire Lord (actually a lady), Air Lord, Water Lord and Earth Lord. The board is divided into numerous “galaxies”, including the “Lost Fortress” at the center of the board where resides the Shadowlord. The Shadowlord has many minions, who pop up in the galaxies and who can be used to mess with the other players. On your turn, you roll a random event (usually good for you), build spaceships, move around the board finding new allies in the galaxies to add to your faction and maneuvering to fight. I won’t go deep into the mechanics – the rules take a little while to learn, but they seem sound to me and after a few goes the game is pretty easy to play. The art is cool – the game was published in 1983, and the graphics show it in a good way. The game also has a time tracker – eventually, the Shadowlord takes control of the whole universe and beats everyone if the players take too long to win the game.

The game we played ultimately came down to wife vs. daughter, and really to my daughter’s quest to rescue one of her captured merchants, Svein, from one of my wife’s warriors. Svein, you see, is an anthropomorphic pig, and my daughter loves pigs. Yes, it all boiled down to a galactic Pig War, which my daughter ultimately lost. It was getting late, so we didn’t play things out completely to have my wife take on the Shadow Lord for control of the universe, but we had a good time.

Dragon by Dragon – September 1981 (53)

Glory be – I finally have enough time this weekend to do another Dragon by Dragon, this one on issue #53 from September 1981.

The first thing I noticed about this issue was the cover. This was not an issue I had as a young nerd, but the cover painting by Clyde Cauldwell, which makes it seem very familiar.

I started playing D&D in 1984, introduced by a friend, Josh Tooley, in 6th grade. He watched his older brother play with some friends, and so with a hand-drawn map on notebook paper, a d6 and a vague recollection of what went on, he ran me through a dungeon during recess. I was hooked, and convinced my parents to get me the game – in this case Moldvay Basic purchased at Toys ‘r’ Us – for Christmas. Good times.

So, let’s see what TSR had to offer 35 years ago.

One of the best things about these magazines in the old days were the advertisements. All these games – and God knew what they were – with all this art. It was all so new to me when I was a kid. Take this ad from I.C.E.

I never had any of their games, but I always admired the art in the adverts – and can you have a cooler name for a company than Iron Crown Enterprises?

Jake Jaquet’s editorial this issue was just the tip of the iceberg …

“There is a bit of a new trend in gaming that I find a bit disturbing, and perhaps it should be food for thought for all of us. I refer to the recent interest in so-called “live” games, especially of the “assassin” or “killer” varieties.”

I remember back in 7th grade some kids running T.A.G. – The Assassinatiom Game. All who participated had to draw the name of another player and kill them – which meant pointing at them and saying “bang”. The victim would then hand his slip over to his assassin, and so it would go until the game was over. Alas, but 2nd period it was all over – a couple morons tried to assassinate their victims in class, and the administration called the game off. I suppose now we would have all been expelled.

Enough of this memory lane stuff, let’s get on to the offerings:

“Why Isn’t This Monk Smiling?” by Philip Meyers brings up the shortcomings of the monk class, and tries to improve on it. The point is actually well made – the idea of suffering through many very weak levels to be powerful at high levels may appear balanced, but it doesn’t work well in practice. To fix things, Philip introduces a new level advancement chart, plays with the rate at which the monk improves its abilities, and adds some new special abilities, some of them psychic. He also makes it easier for the monk to hit those higher levels, without always having to fight another monk.

The monk isn’t out of the fire yet. Steven D. Howard writes in “Defining and Realigning the Monk” a few questions and answers about the monk, mostly to cover why they can’t do some things (answer – I guess it wouldn’t be lawful) and how to once again handle the whole limited number of monks over 7th level. This issue’s Sage Advice keeps the hits coming, with more discussion of the good old monk.

Dude – I had those. Still have some of them, as a matter of fact. Love that packaging, and I always dug that logo.

Next up is Andrew Dewar’s “The Oracle”. This character class always seems like a obvious choice for gaming, but because it deals with the future (which turns out, it is not possible to predict), pulling it off is always tough, both in terms of the abilities, and making it a playable class. Of course, the oracle here is an “NPC class”, meaning not meant for players, but we all played them anyways.

The oracle can cast divination spells, and can use some other divination abilities. It must have an Int and Wis of 14 or higher. Oracles can be human, elf or half-elf. Advancing beyond 11th level requires the oracle to challenge a higher level oracle to a game of riddles (which makes no sense if this is an NPC class … and there is actually half a page spent discussing advancing in level over 11th level).

The innate abilities are various forms of divination – rhabdomancy, arithomancy, etc. – which the class has a percentage chance of using successfully at different levels.

Lewis Pulsipher has a nice introduction to heraldry in “Understanding Armory”. It’s a great primer for those interested in the subject.

Roger E. Moore has the lowdown on “Some Universal Rules – Making Your Own Campaign – and Making It Work”, which covers exactly what he says. He gives a step-by-step on how he designed an original campaign world, based on nothing but his imagination. He also gives a nice set of ways from getting from one universe to another:

1. Cross-universal caves – always go from one world to another.
2. Teleport chains – a length chain of a weird metal that, when surrounding a group and the ends joined pops them into another world.
3. Rings or amulets – like the fabled Ring of Gaxx
4. Rooms and corridors at the bottom of a dungeon
5. Cursed scrolls
6. Angry wizard with a new spell
7. Wish
8. Magical items causing etherealness
9. Psionic probability travel
10. Magic spells (astral spell, plane shift)
11. Mutational planar travel (i.e. Gamma World)
12. Artifacts
13. Advanced technology
14. Acts of the gods

He also notes Dorothy’s ruby slippers

Judith Sampson has a really interesting article called “Adventuring With Shaky Hands”, in which she describes playing the game with choreo-athetoid cerebral palsy. Worth a read.

In “Larger than Life”, David Nalle covers “The Bogatyrs of Old Kiev”. Here are a few highlights:

Prince Vladimir I, The Saint, is a LG 13th level fighter in +5 chainmail with a +3/+4 broad sword. Ilya Muromets is  a LG 20th level fighter – a Cossack with long blond hair – with a mace that scores 2d10 damage.

He also has stats for Baba Yaga, though I don’t know how they compare to the later version in the famous Dancing Hut adventure.

Speaking of adventures, this issue has “The Garden of Nefaron” by Howard de Wied. This adventure won first place in the Advanced Division IDDC II, so it has that going for it, which is nice. This puppy includes some wilderness and a dungeon, and is meant for a large group of relatively high level characters. It also includes some nice Jim Holloway art, one of my faves.

The dungeon has a ki-rin as its caretaker, there are corridors and rooms filled with magic mists, illusions and a really great map (with Dyson-esque cross-hatching).

 

#53 also has some Top Secret material by Merle M. Rasmussen, with scads of spy equipment.

The Dragon’s Bestiary covers Argas (by James Hopkins II), lawful good reptilian humanoids that gain powers from devouring magic, Oculons (by Roger E. Moore), which are enchanted monsters created by magic-users as guardians (and which look super cool) and Narra (by Jeff Goetz), which are lawful human-headed bulls.

Len Lakofka has some extensive info on doors in his Tiny Hut and Matt Thomas does some work on the AD&D disease rules in “Give Disease a Fighting Chance”.

If you like triffids, you’ll like “The Way of the Triffids” by Mark Nuiver. Let’s do a triffid in Blood & Treasure stats:

Triffid

Type: Small to Large
Size: Plant
Hit Dice: 6
Armor Class: 7
Attack: Stinger (10′/1d3 + poison)
Move: 10′
Save: 14
Intelligence: Low
Alignment: Neutral (N) with evil tendencies
No. Appearing: 1
XP/CL: 600/7

They can hide in foliage with 94% chance of success, and they attack with a stinger. The stinger requires two saves vs. poison. If the first is saved, it means instant death. If the second is failed it means blindness and 2d4 additional points of damage.

For the Traveller fans, Dennis Matheson presents “Merchants Deserve More, Too”, which covers character creation for merchants.

Another great ad. I’d dig one of these shirts.

Besides reviews and such, that’s it for September 1981 … except for the comics.Here’s a dandy from Will McLean …

And though no Wormy this month, here’s one of the nifty D&D comics by Willingham …

Khellek shouldn’t be confused with Kellek

“That’s the pepper – right down the middle!”

Or Kelek, Evil Sorcerer

Apparently a popular name among magic-users.

Have fun, guys and gals!

Get Bleeped

Monsters can come from the unlikeliest places, but this one came from a doodle (see below) on a scratchpad while I was on a conference call.

Bleep

Never had an art lesson – can you believe it? *

Type: Construct
Size: Small
Hit Dice: 3+1
Armor Class: 16 (20 vs. metal)
Move: Fly 60′
Attack: Zap (5′/1d6 electricity) or slam (1d4 + 1d6 electricity)
Save: 15
Intelligence: Average
Alignment: Neutral (LN)
No. Appearing: 1d4
XP/CL: 300/4

SD—Resistance (acid, fire), immunity (electricity, mind effects)

SP—See below

Bleeps are constructs that hail from the Astral Plane. They materialize on other planes to learn about their ecosystems, recording data and testing inhabitants, before returning from whence they came (wherever that may be). Whether they are in control of themselves, or serve another species, is unknown. Bleeps communicate in a stilted, robotic voice. Due to their time on a given plane recording information, they have a 75% chance to speak the language of any creature they encounter.

Bleeps are surrounded by an electromagnetic field, which gives them an AC 20 against metal objects. Against spells that involve metal hurlants, they enjoy a +3 bonus to saving throws. This also allows them to zap creatures up to five feet away with electricity and their touch is also electrifying.

The bleep’s main weapon, though, is its ability to conjure replicas of creatures using pure energy. This acts as the different “summon monster” spells, I through IX. They can use one spell at a time, and while they use that spell, they lose a number of hit points equal to the level of the spell. Thus, a bleep using summon monster IX loses 9 hit points while the spell is active. When the spell is deactivated, the hit points return. If a bleep is destroyed while conjuring a monster, the monster disappears and the bleep, reduced to 0 hit points, does not suddenly pop back to life.

The interior of the construct is something like a geode, being a composition of weird crystals covering the interior of the metal shell. A sphere of ethereal nth metal floats in the center of this metal shell while the monster is functional, held in place by an inner electromagnetic field. When the monster is no longer fuctional, and if it is opened, the nth metal quickly floats upward at a rate of 30 feet per round, probably to never be seen again unless someone has a handy silver net with which to catch it.


* This is a lie – I took an art class in high school. I just suck at drawing.

Scientific Items for Blood and Treasure

It’s been too long since my last post, but I’ve been pretty busy editing Blood & Treasure Second Edition. While the second edition is mostly about fixing errors and streamlining rules, I also decided to add a little extra to the game to make it more than just a revision. What I came up with was a few scientific items to spice up dungeon treasures. The items are, of course, optional for those TKs who do appreciate science fantasy.

Here’s a little sneak peek at the items.

Scientific Items

Some TK’s may wish to mingle some science (or science-fantasy, really) into their game. Perhaps their campaign is set long after a great war that left the world in a primitive state, and thus powerful scientific artifacts are hidden in ruins. On the other hand, it could be a “sword & planet” or planetary romance campaign, not unlike the world of Barsoom in Edgar Rice Burrough’s John Carter of Mars series of books, which mingles objects of super science alongside swords and armor.
Whatever the reason, the following tables can be used to roll random scientific treasures to include in your dungeon ruins.

d%         Science Value01-12     Power crystals (1d6)
13-18     Bionics
19-21     Blaster
22-23     Brain implant
24-29     Chronometer
30-34     Cubitron
35-37     Electro-whip
38-41     Exoskeleton
42-44     Flying discs
45-47     Force belt
48-50     Holo-projector
51-58     Infrared goggles
60-61     Jet belt
62-63     Laser sword
64-68     Mutagen capsule
69          Preservation collar
70-75     Ray gun
76-78     Shock gloves
79-83     Sonic pick
84-89     Spacesuit
90-92     Throwing disc
93-97     Tri-scanner
98-00     Vibro-dagger

The items will require a flow chart to figure out.
Here are a couple descriptions:

Bionics: Bionics are scientific items that can be attached to living bodies, improving them in various ways. The table below determines what bionic part was found:

d6 Bionic
1. Arm—left
2. Arm—right
3. Eye
4. Leg—left
5. Leg—right
6. Pincer

A bionic part can either be held up to a freshly severed stump, in which case it attaches itself (and stops the bleeding), or it can be opened and then sealed over the body part. In this latter case, the bionic item soon destroys the part it was fastened over (a painful process) and ruins it for future use.

Bionic items are not powered by power crystals. Rather, they integrate themselves into one’s own body, and power themselves biologically. Each bionic implant a character has “drains” one point of constitution while it is still implanted. When removed, the drained point of constitution is restored (though the body part is not).

Arm: Increase strength by +1; if both arms are bionic, unarmed damage is 1d4

Eye: Darkvision to 60’, find secret doors on roll of 1 to 4 on 1d6

Leg: Increase speed by +10 feet per round; leap 15 feet forward and 5 feet backward or straight up

Pincer: Gain melee attack for 1d6+1 damage; opponents suffer -2 penalty to save vs. grapple attacks

Skullcap: Increase intelligence by +2

Blaster: A blaster is a large device that fits over one’s hand. It is powered by one’s life force rather than a power crystal. Each time it is used, the user must pass a saving throw or suffer 1 point of constitution drain. This drain cannot be healed until the device is removed, which requires a character to roll d% under her combined intelligence and wisdom scores.

While attached to a character, the blaster can send out a laser blast (120’ line, ignores half of armor’s armor bonus, deals 3d6 fire damage) or a sonic blast (60’ cone, 2d6 sonic damage, save vs. deafness for 1 hour, crystal and glass items must save or be shattered).

When a character’s constitution falls below 5, he becomes Chaotic. If constitution is reduced to 0, the user becomes a mindless zombie and the blaster falls from their hand.

Flying Discs: These 2-ft. diameter metal discs can be adhered to the feet and provide the ability to levitate up to 60 feet off the ground, or fly at a speed of 60 feet per round. They consume 1 charge from their power crystals per 10 minutes of use.

Laser Sword: These swords appear to be no more than a pommel until activated. They drain 1 charge from their power crystal per minute of use. Laser swords give off light as a torch and ignore half of non-magic armor’s armor bonus. Laser swords deal 1d10 damage.

Power Crystal: These small, luminous crystals provide power for scientific items. Each crystal holds 10 charges when it is found (unless it is found in an object that was being used, in which case it has 1d10 charges).

Sonic Pick: This 8” long metal wand can be used to find secret doors, open locks and find and remove traps. The user must roll 1d20 under their intelligence score to successfully use the device. Each use uses 1 charge.

And if Brutorz Bill is reading this – yeah, the mutagen capsules come with a little random mutation table.

Manbot Warriors!

These guys would be great for a game of Manbot Warriors. Buy them HERE.

There was no Dragon by Dragon on Sunday because I was visiting relatives in the great state of Iowa over the weekend. While I was doing that, I was formulating this, which I now present to you …

MANBOT WARRIORS
A Mini-Game by John M Stater

For 3 to 5 players, aged 13-1/2 and up (sorry 13 year olds, but you’ll understand why you’re not allowed to play this intense sci-fi RPG when you get older)

When evil threatens from the Galactic Core, the planets of the outer rim call out for … the Manbot Warriors!

Manbot Warriors was a Saturday morning cartoon that never existed, but could have in the late 1970’s or early 1980’s. It would concern a band of warriors, human minds encased in robot bodies, defending the outer rim of peaceful planets from the evils of the Galactic Core. Each episode might entail some crisis that the Manbot Brigade would respond to, from hijackings of pleasure spaceships, to the heist of the First Cosmic Bank, to a threat of planetary invasion.

The game is played by up to 5 people. One is the Game Master, who concocts an evil plot and assembles various monsters to see the plot through. The Game Master must draw up any necessary maps or plans of spaceships or secret hideouts, and must also adjudicate the game fairly on behalf of the players. He is not their opponent, per se, but rather the referee of the game.

The players must roll up their manbot characters, and then counter whatever evil machinations the Game Master has invented for them.

Rolling up a character involves rolling ability scores, choosing a class of manbot to play, choosing and rolling up skills, and finally equipping your manbot with kits.

ABILITY SCORES
Manbots are a collection of abilities and skills. All manbots have the same seven ability scores. Ability scores range from 1 to 6 (though some monsters might have higher scores).

Power (POW): Power measures physical strength.

Reflexes (REF): Reflexes measures how quick and accurate a character is.

Fortitude (FOR): Fortitude measures how well a manbot stands up to punishment.

Intellect (INT): Intellect measures a character’s smarts and mental quickness.

Willpower (WIL): Will measures a manbot’s mental toughness.

Awareness (AWR): Awareness measures a manbot’s perception and situational awareness.

Charm (CHR): A manbot’s charm is their ability to manipulate people.

For each of these abilities roll two dice and write the value of the higher dice roll next to the ability score.

CLASS
Manbots are manufactured to one of five series, called classes. These classes are named after colors, and each class carries with it a bonus and a penalty to ability scores, and determines which skills are prime and secondary for the manbot.

Manbot Black
A manbot black is designed for stealth missions, like the ninjas of ancient Earth. They reduce their POW and FOR scores by one point each (to minimum of one), and increase their REF and AWR scores by one point.

Primary Skills: Stealth
Secondary Skills: Dodge, Fighting, Thievery
Tertiary: Choose any three

Manbot Blue
The manbot blue series is designed for science. They reduce their POW and FOR scores by one point each (to a minimum of one), and increase their INT and WIL scores by one point.

Primary: Science
Secondary: Detection, Engineering, Fighting
Tertiary: Choose any three

Manbot Gold
The gold series of manbots is designed for command and control. They reduce their POW and FOR by one point each (to a minimum of one), and increase their WIL and CHR scores by one.

Primary: Psionics
Secondary: Detection, Fighting, Psychology
Tertiary: Choose any three

Manbot Green
Green manbots are designed for commando operations in the wilderness. They reduce their WIL and CHR by one point each (to a minimum of one), and increase their REF and AWR by one.

Primary: Fighting
Secondary: Detection, Stealth, Survival
Tertiary: Choose any three

Manbot Red
The red series of manbots is designed for military operations – they are warriors par excellence. They reduce their INT and CHR by one point each (to a minimum of one), and increase their POW and FOR by one.

Primary: Fighting
Secondary: Dodge, Drive, Endurance
Tertiary: Choose any three

SKILLS
Each manbot has seven skills (see above). One skill is prime, three are secondary, and three are tertiary. Skill scores range from 0 to 12. Each skill (see below) is associated with an ability score. For the prime skill, roll 3 dice and use the two highest values. For secondary skills, roll 2 dice and used their combined value. For tertiary skills, roll 1 dice and use that value.

The following are considered skills in Manbot Warriors:

Acrobatics (REF): Governs a manbot’s ability to leap, tumble, survive falls and flip over opponents.

Astronavigation (INT): Governs a manbot’s ability to navigate the stars.

Climbing (POW): Governs a manbot’s ability to climb sheer surfaces.

Detection (AWR): Governs a manbot’s ability to find clues and avoid ambushes.

Dodge (REF): Governs a manbot’s ability to dodge traps or other attacks that cover a large area.

Drive (REF): Governs a manbot’s ability to drive tanks, cars and hovercraft.

Endurance (FOR): Governs a manbot’s ability to endure pain and maintain focus despite confusion.

Engineering (INT): Governs a manbot’s knowledge of engineering and mechanics.

Fighting (POW/REF): Governs the manbot’s ability to inflict damage in combat. Melee fighting (i.e. hand-to-hand combat or combat with hand held weapons) is associated with Power, while missile fighting (i.e. shooting guns and laser beams) is associated with Reflexes.

Flight (REF): Governs a manbot’s ability to control himself in flight, or to pilot spaceships and aircraft.

Medicine (INT): Governs a manbot’s ability to provide first aid and surgery to biological creatures.

Psionics (WIL): Governs a manbot’s ability to manipulate or damage another creature’s mind, or to detect the psychic emanations of others.

Psychology (CHM): Governs a manbot’s ability to figure out a creature’s motivations and to “use psychology” to fool or manipulate and deceive people.

Science (INT): Governs a manbot’s knowledge of the sciences, including physics, biology, and astronomy.

Stealth (REF): Governs a manbot’s ability to move silently and hide.

Survival (INT): Governs a manbot’s ability to survive in the wilderness.

Thieving (REF): Governs a manbot’s ability to pick pockets, palm small objects and get past security systems, either mechanical or electronic.

Obviously, you should feel free to add additional skills as you deem necessary.

KITS
Once a manbot has his ability scores and skill scores, he can pick out the kits to equip himself. Each manbot can be fitted out with five kits. The kits are as follows:

Avionics: Avionics improve a manbot’s Flight skill by +1.

Communications: A communications kit can either be used to radio up to 5 miles away (on planet, or to an orbiting spaceship), or to jam all communications (including from other manbots) within 1 mile.

Countermeasures: Countermeasures force smart missile attacks against the manbot to add +1 to the dice roll.

Energy Shields: Energy shields force missile attacks against the manbot to add +1 to the dice roll.

Energy Sword: Energy swords deal one extra point of damage.
Fire Suppression: A fire suppression kit permits the manbot to put out fires. Putting out a fire takes 1-6 combat rounds (roll one dice).

Flame Thrower: A flamethrower forces all creatures within a cone measuring 20 feet long and 10 feet wide to succeed at a Dodge check or suffer a point of damage to Fortitude.

Grapple Fist: A grapple fist can be fired up to 100 feet, and always latches on to a surface with hand holds. It can pull up to two manbots (or the equivalent to 400 pounds) up to the grapple fist.

Jackhammer Fist: A jackhammer fist can be used in melee combat, scoring one extra point of damage against Fortitude, or to break through one foot of concrete per minute and one inch of metal per minute.

Laser Blaster: Laser blasters deal one extra point of damage to Forti-tude on a successful missile attack.

Machine Gun: A machine gun allows a manbot to make three missile attacks per round, but for each additional attack, they must roll one extra dice for their Fighting check (i.e. 3D if attacking two targets, and 4D if attacking three targets).

Mind Gem: A mind gem allows a manbot to project his mental power as a beam of piercing light. The manbot makes an attack using his Psionics score, but deals damage to FOR instead of WIL.

Psi-Helm: A psi-helm deals 2 points of damage to Willpower on a suc-cessful Psionic attack.

Repair Kit: Can be used to effect repairs on other manbots. The repair kit is no good without the Engineering skill.

Rocket Boots: Rocket boots allow a manbot to fly at a speed of 1 mile per minute.

Science Scanners: Can be used to detect radiation, life forms, and the like. The data must be interpreted using the Science skill.

Smart Missiles: A smart missile hits unerringly, unless its target can de-ploy countermeasures or makes a 3D Dodge check.

Sonic Disrupter: A sonic disrupter allows a manbot to make a missile attack using his Fighting skill that deals one point of WIL damage.

Tritanium Armor: Tritanium armor forces attacks against the manbot to add +1 to the attack roll.

CONFLICT AND COMBAT RESOLUTION
To resolve conflicts, add a character’s skill score and relevant ability score. This number is called the target. Roll 3 dice. If the roll is equal to or lower than the tar-get number, you succeed. If the roll is higher than the target, you fail.

If you are rolling against an opponent with a higher skill or ability score, add +1 to the roll. If you are rolling against an opponent with a higher skill and ability score, add +3 to the roll.

If you are rolling against an opponent with a lower skill or ability score, add +1 to the target. If you are rolling against an opponent with a lower skill and ability score, add +3 to the target.

The Game Master can also rule that there is a modifier to the roll or target based on other conditions, such as working under pressure or attacking from behind. For an advantage, add +1, +2 or +3 to the target. For disadvantages, add +1, +2 or +3 to the roll.

Psionic acts that are passive (mind reading, for example) are rolled on only 2 dice (2D).  Psionic acts that actively impact the real world or a creature’s mind (such as telekinesis or controlling a person’s actions) are rolled on 3 dice (3D). Psionic attacks that deal damage are rolled on 4 dice (4D).

COMBAT
Combat is handled in combat rounds, with each round taking 10 seconds of time. To determine who goes first in a round, each player should roll 1 dice and add their REF score. Highest roll goes first, followed by the next highest, and so on. Ties go to the combatant with the highest REF score. If there is still a tie, flip a coin.

Combat uses the conflict resolution method detailed above, using a character’s Fighting skill, and either their POW ability for melee (hand-to-hand) attacks, or their REF ability for missile (ranged) attacks.

A successful physical attack roll deals one point of damage to the opponent’s FOR score. Psionics attacks deal one point of damage to the opponent’s WIL score. If the attack roll succeeds by 3 or more points, the attacker can also impose a special condition on his opponent, such as putting him in a grapple hold, tripping him or erasing a memory from his mind.

A creature reduced to 0 points of FOR or WIL is knocked unconscious and critically wounded, and they can be killed by one more attack.

Characters can be healed with the Engineering skill (for manbots and other mechanical creatures) or Medicine skill. Light healing requires a 2 dice task check, and restores one point of FOR. Serious healing requires a 3 dice task check and restores two points of FOR. Critical healing requires a 4 dice task check and restores three points of FOR. Other ability scores regenerate at a rate of 1 point per day.

MOVEMENT
Characters walk at a speed of 260 feet per minute (or 40 feet per combat round), and can sprint at a speed of 2300 feet per minute (or 390 feet per second). A sprint can last up to one minute. Running at half sprinting speed can last up to 10 minutes. An Endurance check can double the time a character can sprint or run.

LUCK
Each character begins a game session with a Luck score of 6. A luck score can be substituted for an ability score or skill score when making checks. Each time this is done, the character’s Luck score is reduced by 1 point. Points of Luck can also be spent in place of damage to ability scores.

ADVENTURES
Most Manbot Warriors games involve an initial criminal or in some way hostile act by the bad guys, followed by the reaction, investigation and apprehension or destruction of the bad guys by the manbots.

For example: There is an explosion on an asteroid used as a radar station by some planetary authority, to alert them to incursions into their star system by potentially hostile aliens. The planet has two other radar stations – if they are both destroyed, they will have no warning of an invasion.

The manbots are dispatched to discover who bombed the radar station, and stop them from bombing the other two stations. This will involve investigation, follow-up on clues and confrontation.

The Game Master’s job would be to figure out who the bad guys are, and how their plot is meant to proceed. If the players are slow on the uptake, there will be a second explosion. If they fail to stop the third explosion, they will have failed their mission.

ADVANCEMENT
Manbot Warriors can be played as a stand-alone game, or characters can be used in multiple sessions and advanced in their abilities.

Whenever a manbot warrior survives a mission and completes it successfully, he may attempt to make two advancements, one of an ability score or primary skill, and one of a secondary or tertiary skill.

To improve an ability score, roll 1d6. If the number rolled is higher than the existing ability score, advance the ability score by one point. A manbot warrior can never have more than three ability scores at 6, and never more than five ability scores at 5 or higher.

To improve a skill, roll 2d6. If the number rolled is higher than the existing skill score, advance the skill score by one point. Primary skills can be advanced to a maximum of 12. Secondary skills can be advanced to a maximum of 9. Tertiary skills can be advanced to a maximum of 6.

Alternatively, the manbot warrior can add a new tertiary skill to his sheet, with a value of 1. A manbot warrior cannot have more than five tertiary skills.

A manbot warrior can swap out one kit at the beginning of each adventure.

MONSTERS
A monster’s threat level is calculated using the following formula: Add FOR + Fighting or Psionics (whichever is higher) + 1 per offensive or defensive kit and special ability. A value of 0 to 9 being a Level I monster, 10 to 13 a Level II monster, 14 to 17 a Level III monster, 18 to 20 a Level IV monster and 21 or higher a Level V monster.

Amazon of Ouroboros
The amazons of Ouroboros are reptilian ladies with narrow faces. They are fearless and without emotion.
LVL IV, POW 5, REF 4, FOR 5, INT 3, AWR 3, WIL 3, CHM 2; Fighting 8, Endurance 8; Energy Sword, Laser Blaster, Tritanium Armor

Android
Androids are robots that look like human beings, or nearly so. They are stronger and more logical than humans, but lack imagination. Most androids work in boring jobs, but some develop a wild circuit and head out to explore the galaxy as a robotic hobo. They attack with their fists.
LVL I, POW 3, REF 4, FOR 4, INT 6, AWR 3, WIL 3, CHM 2; Fighting 4, Engineering 8, Science 4; Communications Kit, Science Scanner, Repair Kit

Android Prime
Android Prime is a massive artificial intelligence that forms the nexus of all androids, and most computers. It moves on tank treads, and can trample (2 points of damage) and strike with sonic blasts.
LVL IV, POW 6, REF 1, FOR 10, INT 8, AWR 4, WIL 4, CHM 2; Fighting 4, Psychology 6, Science 10; Communications, Energy Shields, Science Scanner, Sonic Disrupters (2), Tritanium Armor

Celestial Siren
These beauteous star maidens actually look something like long, green worms with indistinct faces. They are capable of creating the illusion that they are beautiful women, and use their psionic powers to lure spacemen to their dooms on asteroids or drifting space hulks.
LVL III, POW 1, REF 3, FOR 4, INT 3, AWR 4, WIL 4, CHM 1; Fighting 2, Endurance 6, Psionic 10, Stealth 8

Comet King
The Comet King is a squat, unattractive man with the ability to control the paths of comets, but also to levitate and move bits of metal and earth. With his magnetic powers, he can hurl up to three bits of metal per round as a missile attack, and he can form the spinning metal into a magnetic shield (treat as tritanium armor and energy shield).
LVL III, POW 4, REF 5, FOR 6, INT 5, AWR 3, WIL 8, CHM 1; Fighting 6, Science 10; Communications, Energy Shields, Science Scanner

Crystal Killer
These monsters look like crystal statues, with glowing lights in their hands and heads. Their thick skin reflects lasers and psionic beams, so add +1 to rolls made to attack them with these means. Sonic attacks deal +1 point of damage to the crystal killer’s FOR. Crystal killers attack twice per round with their razor sharp fingers, or once per round with the equivalent of a mind gem.
LVL III, POW 3, REF 7, FOR 4, INT 3, AWR 4, WIL 7, CHM 2; Fighting 8, Psionics 8

Death Howler
Death howlers are quadrupedal monsters about the size of grizzly bears, with smooth skin of scarlet and black, fierce white claws and gnashing teeth. Each round, they can attack twice, once with claws and once with teeth. In place of an attack, they can howl, causing those who fail a WIL check (roll 2d6) to lose one point of POW and one point of FOR for one minute.
LVL II, POW 6, REF 3, FOR 4, INT 1, AWR 6, WIL 1, CHM 1; Fighting 6, Survive 10

Esper
Espers are powerful psychics with a desire to dominate other creatures. They have throbbing temples, bald heads and wear robes in weird, brilliant patterns.
LVL III, POW 2, REF 3, FOR 3, INT 5, AWR 4, WIL 7, CHM 3; Fighting 2, Psionics 9; Mind Gem, Psi-Helm

Froglodytes
The ruffians and ne’er-do-wells of the galaxy, froglodytes look like big, bulky, humanoid frogs. They wear bits of scrap armor sometimes, and fight with normal hand weapons and firearms.
LVL II, POW 5, REF 3, FOR 4, INT 2, AWR 3, WIL 2, CHM 2; Fighting 8, Endurance 6; Machine Gun

Gaseous Ghoul
Gaseous ghouls are cannibal humanoids that, when destroyed, turn into a puff of sulfuric smoke. They can reform in one minute. They attack with their claws.
LVL I, POW 4, REF 3, FOR 3, INT 1, AWR 3, WIL 3, CHM 1; Fighting 6, Psionics 2; Stealth 10

Grimdark Commando
The grimdark commandos are fierce humanoids with noseless faces and grey skin. They hire themselves out as mercenaries, and are much feared in the cosmos.
LVL III, POW 5, REF 6, FOR 4, INT 3, AWR 5, WIL 3, CHM 2; Fighting 9, Stealth 8, Survive 6; Energy Sword, Laser Blaster, Tritanium Armor

Junk Ape
Junk apes are primates that live on vast junk worlds. They are expert tinkers, and have a passion for taking mechanical things apart and turning them into other things. They look something like orangutans with blue-tinged fur and pale green skin. They make two attacks each round with their fists.
LVL II, POW 5, REF 4, FOR 3, INT 3, AWR 3, WIL 2, CHM 2; Fighting 6, Engineering 10, Stealth 3; Machine Gun, Repair Kit

Killbot
Killbots are robots designed for combat. Their forms vary, but most are bipedal and bristling with weapons. They attack twice per round.
LVL IV, POW 5, REF 5, FOR 5, INT 1, AWR 3, WIL 1, CHM 1; Fighting 10; Energy Shields, Laster Blaster, Sonic Disrupter, Tritanium Armor

Moondragon Warrior
The Moondragon Warriors are a shadowy cabal of psychic warriors who sometimes appear to oppose the Galactic Core, and other times to be aiding it. They are humanoids, and dress in long, grey robes and grey pleather clothes.
LVL III, POW 4, REF 6, FOR 5, INT 4, AWR 6, WIL 5, CHM 3; Fighting 10, Psionics 6, Psychology 6; Energy Sword, Mind Gem

Nebula the Space Witch
Nebula is the self-proclaimed Queen of Space Witches, and a major power of the Galactic Core. She is a tall, gaunt woman, graceful and elegant, in luxurious silks and a tall collar. She is usually guarded by four gaseous ghouls (q.v.).
LVL V, POW 2, REF 4, FOR 6, INT 6, AWR 5, WIL 6, CHM 4; Fighting 6, Psionics 12, Psychology 9, Science 8; Energy Sword, Mind Gem, Psi-Helm

Psiborg
Psiborgs are robots with the minds of psychics. They are dangerous physically and mentally, but their wild emotional states sometimes prove their undoing.
LVL III, POW 6, REF 5, FOR 5, INT 4, AWR 5, WIL 5, CHM 2; Fighting 8, Endurance 6, Psionics 8, Science 3 [7]; Engineering Kit, Psi-Helm, Tritanium Armor

Radiation Dragon
These massive reptiles dwell in space, soaking up the rays of stars and of radioactive materials in abandoned spaceships (usually abandoned because of the dragon) or asteroids. They can fly through space and in atmospheres, and attack three times per round, with a bite, claws and tail slap. All of these attacks deal 2 points of damage. In place of these attacks, they can spit radioactive fire in a 30-ft long cone, 15-ft wide at the base, that deals 2 points of damage to the FOR and POW scores of everything caught in its path.
LVL V, POW 8, REF 6, FOR 9, INT 3, AWR 5, WIL 5, CHM 2; Fighting 10, Astronavigation 6, Endurance 8, Flight 7, Psionics 5

Rust Viper
Rust vipers are large serpents with metal scales (treat as tritanium armor) and fangs that can pierce metal. When they do, they inject a venom that quickly corrodes and dissolves the metal, ruining tritanium armor and inflicting one point of FOR damage to mechanical creatures (including manbots) per round until repaired. Injected into a biological creature (which also includes manbots), the venom causes mild nausea and hallucinations.
LVL II, POW 3, REF 6, FOR 3, INT 1, AWR 3, WIL 1, CHM 1; Fighting 6, Dodge 6, Stealth 10

Salt Mummy of Kor
The infamous salt mummies of Kor are long-dead aliens preserved in pleather bandages and animated through dark space magic and an undying hatred for living things. They are found in ruins and sometimes on abandoned spaceships, often with a small cult of spacers or space bandits serving them, with an esper as the high priest.
LVL IV, POW 6, REF 2, FOR 8, INT 4, AWR 2, WIL 6, CHM 1; Fighting 8, Endurance 12, Psionics 9; Mind Gem

Saucer Man
Saucer men look like small, grey men with large, black, almond-shaped eyes and oversized heads. They are tremendously annoying, wanting to touch and probe everything they meet, and they have no respect for other forms of life.
LVL I, POW 2, REF 3, FOR 2, INT 6, AWR 4, WIL 4, CHM 2; Fighting 3, Psionics 4, Science 11; Repair Kit, Science Scanner, Sonic Disrupter

Shimmering Death
A shimmering death appears as a cloud of glowing, shifting motes of light. They drain the psyches of creatures, and are notoriously hard to kill. A shimmering death can only be harmed by psionics, sonic disrupters, and energy swords. They attack by enveloping a creature, who must make and Endurance check each round to avoid being stunned with fright while his mind is probed and his psyche gnawed on. Each round spent in a shimmering death drains one point of WIL.
LVL III, POW 1, REF 6, FOR 4, INT 1, AWR 6, WIL 6, CHM 1; Fighting 6, Flight 11, Psionics 8, Stealth 4

Skarbarian
The boisterous Vikings of the space lanes are raiders, pillagers, warriors, poets and spacemen extraordinaire. They wield energy axes (treat as energy swords) and go berserk in combat, attacking twice per round and ignoring wounds on a successful Endurance task check.
LVL III, POW 5, REF 4, FOR 5, INT 3, AWR 3, WIL 3, CHM 3; Fighting 8, Astronavigation 7, Dodge 8, Endurance 8, Engineering 4; Energy Axe, Machine Gun

The Slime God
The Slime God is a horrible creature, a blob of cyan slime covered with blinking black eyes. A major power of the Galactic Core, he is bent on consuming everything in his path. The Slime God can strike up to six creatures per round with its pseudopods, or try to overrun creatures and smother them (Endurance check each round or lose one point of Fortitude).
LVL V, POW 8, REF 4, FOR 10, INT 3, AWR 3, WIL 6, CHM 1; Fighting 10, Endurance 9, Stealth 12

Space Whale
These magnificent creatures look like humpback whales with shimmering black hides and brilliant eyes of star shine. They attack with their flukes and fins, striking two creatures per round and dealing 2 points of damage when they hit.
LVL III, POW 9, REF 4, FOR 8, INT 2, AWR 1, WIL 4, CHM 1; Fighting 6, Astronavigation 12, Flight 8, Psionics 5

Spacers
Spacers are traders who drive cruisers across the galaxy, trading exotic goods. They attack with handguns and daggers, one attack per round.
LVL I, POW 3, REF 3, FOR 3, INT 3, AWR 3, WIL 3, CHM 4; Fighting 4, Astronavigation 6, Engineering 5, Psychology 7

Star Bandits
Star bandits are pirates. Some operate from space cruisers, others in starfighters that launch from asteroids and planetoids.
LVL II, POW 3, REF 4, FOR 3, INT 3, AWR 4, WIL 2, CHM 2; Fighting 7, Stealth 6; Energy Shield, Machine Gun

Stone Man
Stone men look like humanoids formed of stones. They stand about 10 feet tall, and have deep, raspy voices with which they speak very slowly. Their skin is as tough as tritanium armor, and their hands can strike like jackhammers. They attack twice per round.
LVL III, POW 8, REF 2, FOR 5, INT 2, AWR 2, WIL 2, CHM 2; Fighting 6, Endurance 12

Sun Tiger of Yaoloo
The sun tigers look like cats formed of flame and light. They radiate intense heat, forcing creatures within 10 feet to pass an Endurance check each round or suffer a -1 penalty to all physical ability scores (POW, REF, FOR). They attack twice per round, once with eye beams (up to 30 feet) and once with claws.
LVL III, POW 5, REF 5, FOR 8, INT 1, AWR 6, WIL 2, CHM 1; Fighting 6, Endurance 6, Flight 6, Stealth 5

Vampiric Plant Man
A vampiric plant man looks like a thin creature with indistinct features, pale green skin and long, thorned fingers that can tear into flesh and drink blood. They attack twice per round with their fingers. Each successful attack forces a person to pass an Endurance task check or lose one point of POW to blood drain each round until receiving first aid. Lost POW returns at the rate of one point per hour.
LVL III, POW 4, REF 4, FOR 5, INT 2, AWR 5, WIL 4, CHM 2; Fighting 8, Psionics 5, Stealth 9

Volton
Voltons are large avians with leathery skin, long, jagged beaks, and 20-ft long, whip-like tails that carry a powerful electric charge. Creatures struck by the tail must pass a 3 dice Endurance check or be stunned for one combat round and unable to move or attack, in addition to suffering 2 points of FOR damage. Their tiny minds make them immune to psionic attack.
LVL II, POW 7, REF 4, FOR 4, INT 1, AWR 4, WIL 1, CHM 1; Fighting 6, Flight 8

Xodiac, Lord of Space Magic
Xodiac is an ancient wizard steeped in cosmic magic. He is a major power in the Galactic Core, commanding many froglodytes and space bandits. He travels on a boomer, seated on a golden throne before a giant crystal ball, through which he spies on the galaxy. His awareness of the future allows him to force opponents to re-roll an attack or task check once per combat.
LVL V, POW 2, REF 5, FOR 6, INT 5, AWR 5, WIL 8, CHM 4; Fighting 6, Psionics 12; Mind Gem, Psi-Helm

SPACESHIPS

These would be pretty awesome as well. Buy HERE.

Boomer
A boomer is a cruiser-sized spaceship that carries cargo, passengers or perhaps two or three starfighters. They carry three laser blasters, energy shields and tritanium armor. They move at a speed of 2 miles per minute (or 1400 feet per round), and can hyperspace one parsec away, once per day.

Saucer
These ships are operated by the saucer men. They are quick and maneuverable, and are capable of teleporting up to one parsec away once per day. They are unarmed, but carry science scanners.

Starfighter
These small, one or two-man spaceships carry a laser blaster and six smart missiles. They can operate in space or in an atmosphere. They move at a speed of 35 miles per minute (or 6 miles per round).

Zipper
A zipper is a small cargo ship designed to be a blockade runner. It is equipped with two laser blasters and energy shields. A zipper moves at a speed of 3 miles per minute (or 2600 feet per round), and can hyperspace one parsec away, once per day.

UFO – A Timely Review

Mismatched dice and a space station standing in for a rocket, but GAME ON!

As long-time readers know, I like to keep my reviews at the Land of Nod timely and relevant, which is why today I’m reviewing a game made in 1976 by Avalon Hill.

Once upon a time (because anything that begins with that phrase has to be timely and relevant), when I must have been in elementary school or thereabouts, I was digging through a closet and came across a box that apparently held a game. The title – UFO: Game of Close Encounters.

These were the days of Star Wars, but they weren’t the days of VCR’s / DVD’s / Netflix / YouTube / watch anything you want when you want no matter what. These were the days when the Charlie Brown Christmas Special was on TV once a year, and if you missed it, you missed it. Star Wars was a phenomenon, and since it was in short supply, anything sci-fi was doing pretty well. I didn’t know much about this UFO game, but it looked like it was at least in Star Wars‘ neighborhood, so I was intrigued.

The game belonged to my father, apparently a gift from somebody. My father isn’t much of a game player, and I’m not sure he ever played the game in his life. He sure didn’t play it with me. The game migrated to my closet as a kid, and then moved with me when I left home. And then, one day thirty-something years later …

“What’s this,” asks my daughter, rummaging through the closet in my office.

And I realize it’s time to end the cycle. UFO must be played.

The cover, found at Board Game Geek, of course

I get the game out and check Board Game Geek to see what I’m missing. Apparently, I only managed to lose 2 counters in all the years I messed with the game as a kid. Not too bad, and not really an obstacle to playing the basic version of the game.

The victory conditions in the basic game are pretty simple – the invading UFO player wins by landing five saucers on Earth. The Earth player wins by destroying enough saucers that the UFO player cannot win.

Game play is equally simple. The UFO player places his/her saucers around the outside of the board. The Earth player places his rockets on Earth. Each turn, players roll two dice. Each dice controls the movement of a separate piece. Pieces can move in orbit clockwise. They can move to a different orbit only along four paths, and may not change orbit or move clockwise in the same turn. If a rocket lands on a saucer, the saucer is destroyed. If a saucer lands on a rocket, the rocket is destroyed.

If the Earth player rolls doubles, he loses his turn and the Moon moves in orbit. If the UFO player rolls doubles, she may hyperspace one of her saucers to any empty space on the board.

If the Moon, while orbiting, moves over a piece, it destroys the piece. If the Moon is empty, a piece can be landed on the Moon on its own turn, by exact count. Likewise, Earth can only be landed on by exact count, but either player.

So, them’s the rules. How did the game go?

Pretty fun, actually. The strictures on movement make you think a bit, and the potential for hyperspace makes it tough for the Earth player to cover all his bases. Ultimately, you want to control those orbital paths towards the Earth, but it’s not as easy as you think, because if you just sit there, eventually the UFO player is going to destroy your rocket or hyperspace in behind you. In the game my daughter and I played, it came right down to the wire – four saucers landed on Earth, one saucer left needing a “1” to land. I got the lucky roll the dice  and destroyed the fifth saucer. Earth was saved. All humanity rejoiced.

The advanced game involves space stations and false signals on radar, and we’ll tackle it at some point. The game was pretty fun, actually. Didn’t take long, and didn’t drain the brain, so a nice way to spend a half an hour or so. Afterwards, we played LIFE (the old version with Art Linkletter on the money, of course), and my daughter cleaned my clock.

Of course, there wouldn’t have been an Earth to play the Game of LIFE on if I hadn’t stopped the saucer invasion …

Fashion of the Future!

Saw something interesting at Public Domain Review about the future of fashion. Actually, the imagined future of fashion in the 1890’s based on a book from future (1993). W. Cade Gall, the author, found this book, which tells of the immutable laws that govern the waves that move through fashion.

Let’s see what the future book tells us about fashion in the Roaring ’20s

Hmmm. Pretty close

Now, here’s what I think is usable (besides the images, which will figure prominently in what I write for Terra Obscura, the land of the Philosopher Kings in Nod) in the article.

Random Fashion Table
For the most part, when I write cultures in Nod I base them on real world cultures (or perceptions of real world cultures). Why? Because a thoroughly make-believe world requires the players to learn a tremendous amount of made up bullshit about things that don’t exist, instead of them focusing on having fun drinking beer, rolling dice, and playing a game. That said, I do like to throw a few weird civilizations out there to keep things interesting, and the little table of waves might be useful for generating ideas about how they dress. The book conveniently gives us six waves – to whit:

1. Angustorial / Wobbling
2. Severe / Recuperative
3. Latorial / Decided
4. Tailor-Made / Opaque
5. Ebullient / Bizarre
6. Hysterical / Angustorial

The first term refers to the type, the second to the tendency. And no – I don’t know what “the tendency” means for sure. And “angustorial” and “latorial” – I can’t find definitions for those words. Perhaps they meant augustorial? Oh hell, maybe it’s not that useful after all. Or perhaps I just need to make a few changes:

ROLL D6
1. August and senatorial style as dictated by the elite; many ornaments, rich fabrics (and lots of it) and textures, meant to look refined, stately and elegant
2. Severe and simple, a reaction to the previous style that is casual and not ornamental in the least, focusing on solid colors, simple fabrics and clean, classic lines
3. A loosening of styles, fuller and blowsier, with sedate patterns, with a bit more trim (but not the ornamentation of phase 1); fashion is highly dictated at this point, and weirdos are barely tolerated
4. Much as before, but quality is the watch word – clothes are tailor-made and well fitted, and no two suits or gowns are quite the same
5. Ebullience and joy reign supreme, as a new generation takes advantage of the loosening of rules and introduces doodads, geegaws and bright colors and patterns to the mix – Ah youth!
6. The ebullience of before becomes a hysterical riot of color and pattern, with over complicated and impractical designs and a high degree of ornamentation; even now, the elite are beginning to create the august style that will appear next …

Invasion of the Pod Jellies

While writing the new hexcrawl, I scribbled these lovely fellows out and thought folks might find a use for them …

Several (3d4) large seed pods float in the ocean here, and might be seen (1 in 6 chance) by a vessel passing through this hex. The pods are about 6 feet long and consist of a very thick, green hide (Armor Class 18). The pods should be treated as having 20 hit points. They are vulnerable to fire, but immune to cold.

Within the pod, there is a strange, gelatinous life form that, through its mental powers, can understand and duplicate any sentient humanoid. Each pod jelly picks a single humanoid to make its own, using its ESP to choose a likely candidate, and each day absorbs a portion of their being (i.e. 1d6 points of constitution damage) while turning itself into a clone or replica of that person. The pod must be within 30 feet of its victim to do this, and victim receives a Will saving throw each day to resist the effect. When the original’s constitution is reduced to zero, the clone bursts forth from the pod and the original’s body disintegrates.

The pod jellies duplicate the original’s body (i.e. hit dice and physical ability scores) and mind (intelligence and charisma scores, though wisdom is never higher than 6) perfectly, knowing all they knew and having the same general special abilities. They cannot, however, exhibit emotion or faith, and emotion based powers (such as a berserk rage or a cleric’s divine powers), are duplicated and therefore they are not possessed.

POD JELLY
Medium Ooze, Chaotic (NE), Average Intelligence; Invasion (3d6)

HD 2
AC 16
ATK Touch (1d4 acid)
MV 20
SV F15 R15 W15
XP 200 (CL 3)

These are the abilities of a pod jelly in its native form, outside the protection of its pod-like shell and before it has taken on the form of a humanoid. In humanoid form, it loses its resistance to acid, though it retains its ESP ability and can still utter a psychic scream (i.e. psionic blast) once per day, though this takes the form of an actual shrill scream as well as a mental effect.

Special Abilities: Resistance to acid

Spell-Like Abilities: At will—Detect thoughts (ESP); 3/day—Psionic blast

I suppose I need to include them in ACTION X.

What’s more frightening, the psionic blast or that damn perm?

 

Dragon by Dragon – September 1978 (18)

Another week, another Dragon magazine. The last one was chock-full of stuff, how about this issue.

Traveller: The Strategy of Survival by Edward C. Cooper

As I was thinking, “I don’t remember any Traveller articles showing up before in The Dragon” I hit this line in the article, “I took advantage of the opportunity to observe the TRAVELLER phenomenon first hand” – ah – so this is at the dawn of Traveller.

I’ve never played Traveller, but I did create a character once (I was creating one character for every game I had a PDF of … though I skipped Exalted because after the first few steps I realized I just didn’t care enough to bother with it). This article appears to be about – well – keeping a character alive in Traveller. My favorite bit:

“Several other similar occurrences proved to me then that the success or failure of a character in most cases cannot be traced to “dice or chance” as often as it can to poor handling on the part of a player. I was both surprised and disappointed that some players even blamed a character or given situation for their own bad decisions. But then again, I was extremely excited, awed, by the skill some showed in manipulating their character’s life.”

That hits the spot for an old schooler – though it also shows that there were plenty of people back in the old days who were waiting for the new days with baited breath. Different strokes for different folks!

Reviews – Traveller, The Emerald Tablet, Imperium …

Well, imagine that! The reviewer appreciates that Traveller is not just D&D in space, but rather has its own “unique flavor and style”. The review is quite extensively, and I highly recommend it (yeah, I’m reviewing a review) for folks who don’t really know what Traveller is all about.

The Emerald Tablet is a set of fantasy wargame rules. The reviewer likes them, but admits he doesn’t know much about wargames. He likes that the magic system is based on ritual magic, which I know some people dig, but I always think it’s overrated. On the other hand – dig this sheet of Astral Force cards (click to enlarge … trust me, click it – click it now) I found at Boardgamegeek.com …

I don’t know what Phul does, but, hmm – anyways.

Imperium is another Game Designer’s Workshop product, a board game written by people who really love sci-fi literature. Apparently, Imperium is a game about the Terrans bumping up against the Imperium and the two sides fighting.

Pellic Quest is a computer moderated RPG (apparently a good thing, because computers are jerks like Dungeon Masters – see, the seeds of the new school were always there). Another sci-fi game, you start controlling a small planet in one of six roles (emperor, crusader, brigand, trader, droyds (robotic destroyers) or the zente (insect alien warriors). Each role needs different “winning points” and then go about making it happen.

Oh, and those zente …

Pretty sweet.

Cosmic Encounter is a sci-fi variation on draw poker.  Apparently it is simple and easy to learn, and, most importantly, fun, although the hype that one really has to get into the head of the alien race they control is wrong. The game combines several elements of classic, abstract games, and I want people who think they’re game designers to embrace this notion. Don’t begin with setting, begin with rules and get to know all sorts of old card games, board games, etc. Then apply setting to the game rules. This is how D&D was born and manages to remain so popular – it works as a game. Well, it used to, anyways.

INSANITY, or Why is My Character Eating Leaves? by Keven Thompson

A worthwhile article – insanity is tough to handle in games. Kevin Thompson devises first a saving throw vs. insanity (which makes sense given the time period). The saving throw is based on a matrix between Intelligence and Wisdom – find the number, add character level to it, and then try to roll 1d20 beneath that number. Neat idea (and I’ll be using it in a post this week).

If you fail the save, you roll d12 (always nice to see the d12) on an insanity chart.

INSANITY CHART

1. Nutty
2. Kleptomaniac
3. Perverse
4. Psychotic Hatred
5. Childlike Trusting
6. Schizoid
7. Severe Paranoia
8. Acute Paranoia
9. Gibbering
10. Suicidal
11. Violent
12. Catatonic

The good thing about this list is that it is more behavior based than clinical. It’s pretty easy to see how these “insanities” could impact actual play in a game.

New Spells in D&D! by Paul Suliin

(Love the use of the exclamation point)

This article introduces new spells created by an actual play group using the rules for spell research in Dragon #5. The editor chimes in with the admonition that every spell needs to have a loophole via which it can negated somehow.

The new spells include Nature Call, Magic Missile II, Moon Runes, Flamebolt, Mystic Rope, Pit of Flame, Word of Warding, Force Field, Extend I, Shatterray, Wall of Water, Extend II, Beam of Blasting, Conjure Djinn/Efreet, Density Control, Extend III, Combine I, Call Spirit, Rust Monster Touch and more.

Let’s convert a couple to Blood & Treasure

Magic Missile II
Level: Magic-User 2
Range: Medium (150 ft.)
Duration: Instantaneous

As magic missile, but this spell conjures either one +2 arrow or two +1 arrows, with a like amount added for every fifth level advanced beyond 3rd (i.e. two +2 arrows or four +1 arrows at 8th level, three +2 arrows or six +1 arrows at 13th level, etc.)

Density Control (which would also make a great power for Mystery Men!)
Level: Magic-User 6
Range: Personal
Duration: 3 minutes

The spellcaster can alter the density of his body from a gas to steel. Such changes alter the spellcaster’s Armor Class, so that at minimum density he is immune to physical weapons, and at maximum density he is AC 18 and his hands strike as swords (1d6 damage). Density may be altered throughout the duration of the spell, and items in contact with the spellcaster’s body when the spell is cast are altered along with him.

Magic: Governed by Laws of Theory by Thomas A. McCloud

Man, I used to roll my eyes at these when I was a kid – theory? dude, I want a new class, new race, new spells, new adventures, etc. But I’m an adult now, so … naw, I still think the same way.

This one attempts to draw inspiration on the how’s and why’s of magic in D&D by examining such sage tomes as the 1960 Encylcopedia Britannica and Frazer’s The Golden Bough. Dude – it’s a game. Of course magic is treated casually. Real estate is treated pretty casually in Monopoly because it’s also a game – move and countermove, risk taking, a random element. Don’t overthink it!

Let Your Town Have A Purpose, or, How To Design A Town In Boot Hill by Mike Crane

Sometimes I think Jay Ward wrote the titles of these articles (bonus Nod points to anyone who gets that reference). Mike covers the best scale (1″ = 20′) to draw the map, the need to think about why the town is there in terms of who settled it and what they do (dude, it’s there to give gunslingers a place to have gun fights), etc. To be completely honest, articles like this are a waste. A bunch of random tables for generating an Old West town would have been much more helpful, or just a suggestion of watching some old episodes of Bonanza. Sorry – guess I’m in a salty mood at the moment.

Reviews Continued … Alpha Omega

Okay, apparently we’re not done with reviews yet. Alpha Omega was Battleline’s first stab at a sci-fi game. The reviewer thinks it reminds him of Buck Rogers or Star Wars … and that’s not an endorsement, according to the reviewer. After all, if we can’t beat all the fun out of sci-fi and make it boring and cerebral, then what’s the f-ing point? (I am in a mood). Here’s a sample of the review …

Alpha Omega is billed as “A game of tactical combat in space,” a claim supported by the rules.

Okay then. Apparently, the art is superb on the counters, but they’re hard to read, and the scale (one hex equals one light second) and turn time (6 seconds) are weird for space fights. The game is also two-dimensional, rather than three-dimensional, although the reviewer doesn’t think three dimensions would have any bearing on the game, and thus might as well not be there. The game is really just naval combat on a board that looks like space. The weapons are not realistic (just names, really), so the game also lacks believability (a bugaboo that has never bothered me personally) – hell, they named a couple alien ships Akroid and Balushi – the bastards. Uggh – life’s too short for this. Game looks fun to me, and the cover is pretty cool.

The Chamber of the Godgame by Mick McAllister

The what of the what? It’s a short article describing a dungeon chamber based on a scene in John Fowles’ “grand metaphysical dungeon novel” The Magus. I won’t go into it – find the article or find the book.

Gamma World: Fire Report; Setting Up The Campaign by James M. Ward and Gary Jaquet

Neat little behind the scenes look at the why’s and wherefore’s of turning Metamorphosis Alpha into Gamma World.

Birth Tables – Boot Hill by Stephen Blair

This one’s a collection of random tables. Let’s roll on them and see what we get …

Social Class: Ranch Related (didn’t know that was a social class, but okay)

Profession of Father: Homesteader (ah, now I get it)

Birth Order: Bastard (makes sense)

Skills: Facility with numbers (this bastard can multiply!)

Initial Purse: $75

Size of Spread: 5,120 acres

Guidelines for Mixing Campaigns: Androids, Wizards, Several Mutants, and Liberal Doses of Imagination, Well Blended by James M. Ward

This article is a quick guide to converting D&D characters to MA characters. D&D characters get a radiation resistance of 3, and MA creatures get no save vs. magic. Magic armor completely disrupts protein and disruptor blasts (good to know). The shielding, metal and energy fields of the Warden stop crystal balls and helms of teleportation from working (it’s science, dude, deal with it). Good article – reminiscent of the treatment in the old DM’s Guide.

Monkish Weapons and Monk vs. Monk Combat by Garry Eckert

Apparently, Garry read a book about Japanese weapons and decided to apply what he learned to monks (who are drawn from Chinese fact and folklore, not Japanese – oi!). Skip it.

Effective Use of Poison by Bill Coburn

Quick article that defines poison as Class A, B or C.

Type A is in potion form, and includes Arsenic and Hemlock. It kills 80% of the time in 2d4 minutes and if it doesn’t kill, leaves a person stricken for 1 week (meaning half strength, dexterity, constitution and movement).

Type B is in the form of gas, darts, cobras and needles. A neurotoxin, it brings death 50% of the time in 4d4 days and leaves people stricken for 1d3 days after being unconscious 30 minutes after poisoning for 1d4 days.

Type C comes from monsters. A hemotoxin, is has a 10% chance of killing a character in 1d4 days, and leaves people stricken for 1d10 days after being unconscious 1 hour after poisoning for 2d4 days.

Armor in this scheme provides a bonus to save vs. poison (-2 penalty for no armor, no adjustment for leather, +1 for chainmail and +2 for platemail).

Not a bad little system, really.

Comics!

Finieous Fingers and his pals meet the evil wizard, and discover that a good initiative roll and a magic wand go a long way towards evening the score between fighters and magic-users.

In Wormy, the trolls make the mistake of breaking one of Wormy’s pool balls. Jeez I miss this comic. Who has the next Wormy in them?

The Childhood and Youth of the Gray Mouser by Harry O. Fischer

This is Harry’s version of the Gray Mouser’s youth, Harry having been a major help in creating all of the major characters of Nehwon back in the day. It begins …

“Mokker was the Prince of Pimps in the Street of Whores in Lankhmar. He could just as easily have been King. He was tastefully and expensively dressed, with massive gold and jeweled rings one or more to a finger. He was exceedingly complex; calculating, sometimes ruthless, vulnerable to fits of whimsy, possessing an almost perpetual erection (as it behooves a whore-master to have), and more. He was generous, and delighted in both the giving and getting of surprises. His whores loved him for this, in addition to the fact that he felt not the slightest hesitation about correcting or revenging a wrong to one of his, no matter how slight the transgression. Mokker was a thorough and practical rogue given to sudden impulses, possessing large eyes, a sensual mouth and plump cheeks; a merry companion and a deadly enemy. He was clever, aware of it, and arrogant.”

No, D&D wasn’t for kids just yet.

Next we have this …

Okay then.

Non-Player Character Statistics by ???

This is another quickie – random tables for determining NPC stats based on their personality. Kinda cool. I’ll roll one up – we’ll say a madame from Tremayne named Durla …

Pride (Ego): Little – =1-% greed, -1% work quality

Greed: Loans things, sells items for normal* prices

Quality of Work: Normal

Okay, well, now I know. I think I’ll stick to my method in Blood & Treasure (on sale now!)

And there you have it, along with some nice little comic panels from McLean. Lots of stuff packed into 34 pages, and not a bad read overall. The spells were fun, and I like the poison rules. The reviews got me to look up some old games I’d never heard of, and the insanity rules put an idea in my head I’ll explore more this week.

Have fun boys and girls, and don’t be the last geek on your block to get Blood & Treasure