Thursday, August 14, 2008

Modern20 Revised

A massive update to Modern20 is coming, adding an estimated 20 pages to the size of the core rules.

And best of all, it's free to purchasers of Modern20.

Get the straight dope here.

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Pocast Madness

Lots of podcast stuff for Modern20 fans this week.

First, the Accidental Survivors and me did a pocast totally focused on the game that went into some depth on the core rules.

Second, Chris and I held an advanced talk in which we broke down the early draft of my upcoming, full length Modern20 adventure, Modern Mayhem (working title). Hear me and Chris go over an early draft of our next product!

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

What Chuck does in his spare time part 2

This is actually a continuation of a post I made at my blog on the RPGObjects site. Since my wonderful blogging appears to have temporarily broken the site, we're back here kicking it old school for a bit.

So, what DOES Chuck do in his spare time you ask?

He writes the entire Diablo article for Giant Bomb, a wikipedia/video game review site.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

First blog post at RPGObjects

So in a way this is sad but the only constant is change as they say.

For the time being, I'll put little posts like this one here to let folks know about the new blog, which will be one of many content offerings at the new RPGO website.

Eventually, some "classic" posts from here will be migrated over there, especially ones like the Modern20 and Supers20 previews that are product-y.

Check it out!

Friday, July 25, 2008

Modern20 Influences: Television

What TV Shows translate into great modern20 games? This list is by no means exhaustive, but it's some of the things I watch not only for adventure ideas, but just for inspiration when writing the game.

Also, the shows on this list are in no particular order. I think they're all great.

1. The Shield: simply put, the best cop show of all time, transcending even my beloved Homicide in Seasons 4 and 5, with guest stars Glenn Close and Forest Whittaker.

Also, unlike Homicide, which is a true procedural, something that doesn't make a good d20 game in my experience, the Shield is active. These cops aren't solving crimes during CSI montages in the evidence room.

They solve them by kicking down doors, running through walls (you heard me), punching dudes in the face and asking Miranda who?

2. Spooks: People keep telling me this show is getting worse, but 6 seasons in, it remains exciting, visceral and smart. This is what 24 should be. It's team based, and, even though there isn't quite enough dudes shooting dudes for MY taste, it's active which is the single best quality to look for when trying to figure out if a show will translate into a good game.

3. Dexter: This breaks one of my cardinal rules for media that I look to for game inspiration: it's not team/group-based. Still, this show combines brooding murder, CSI-like detective work and a vigilante serial killer.

4. Burn Notice: Burn Notice is sort of the bastard TV-child of MacGuyver and the A-team in that our hero, Michael Westin, uses brain more than brawn and our team of operatives always has a good montage to help them save the day.

A "burned" intelligence agent (of an unnamed agency), Michael Westin has settled in Miami where he does good for people with his friends, an ex-Navy Seal (played by Bruce Campbell) and an ex-IRA trigger-woman (played by Gabriel Anwar).

This show is great and constantly amazes me in how unselfconscious its characters are about doing the right thing. You might not think a spy, a SEAL and an IRA member would go around helping the good people of Miami every week and well, that might not even make any SENSE.

But it doesn't matter. Burn Notice is a TV show, and it's OK being a TV show.

5. The Academy: This Fox reality show about the LA County Sherriffs boot camp is constantly informative and entertaining, giving little glimpses into real police training.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Modern20 more dangerous?

The recent RPGSite review, by Krakajak, brought up some discussion and thoughts among my home group. Specifically, one point he made about combat being much more dangerous.

One point was made about called shots. Yes, they make things more dangerous, but not a lot. You have to be high level before you can reliably pull off head shots and even then, that's just an increased chance for double damage.

As opposed to multiple attacks, it seems that called shot and burst fire remain more of a wash than anything else. A stylistic choice.

You can do both at low levels (make a called shot, or find an automatic weapon and go burst fire) and you get better at both as you raise your ranks in the firearms skill.

A second point, brought up in the review, was the presence of Hit Location, and how the double damage it can bring randomly makes combat more deadly.

Now Modern20 has three hit locations (out of 20) that inflict more damage, two that inflict double damage, and one that increases damage by 50%.

However, there are FOUR locations, out of 20, that inflict half damage.

I'm more of a "gut" statistician than a trained one. I have a sense of how things will work in game and a good eye for balance when I'm running things.

Still, my gut tells me that a 15% chance to inflict more damage, a 20% chance to inflict less, and a 65% to inflict normal damage isn't that much more dangerous than d20 Modern's flat 5% chance of a critical hit inflicting double damage (with no chance to inflict less).

Finally, there were a couple of points my players raised that weren't raised in the review:

First, on the less dangerous side, there's the fact that armor in Modern20 acts as Damage Reduction.

Second, on the more dangerous side, is the fact that Modern20 firearms inflict more damage than their d20 Modern counterparts at close range, effectively enough to negate the damage reduction of armor (more or less).

And of course, if you dont have body armor, this makes a point blank firearm attack VERY dangerous in Modern20, especially with a chance for a headshot.

Of course, this is not accidental. One of my goals in Modern20 was to make gunfire at point blank range bad, and gunfire at point blank range without body armor a Very Bad Thing (TM).

I wanted players to respect guns.

But, my feeling, and my players agreed, is that if you were moderate level, wearing body armor, and able to keep the enemy from getting too close, that Modern20 wasn't much more dangerous than d20 Modern.

A little, but not much.

What do you guys think?

Modern20 gets another review!

Not quite as high a score as the other reviews, a 3 on a 5 point scale (the average score has been in the 4 point range) but still a well done review that explains enough about what the reviewer likes and doesn't (and why) to let the reader make up his own mind, which makes it a well done review in my book.

Check it out.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008


Justice has a name. And the name that it has, besides justice, is Captain Hammer.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Modern20 and Supers20- stuff is happening

So some things going down on the Modern20 and Supers20 fronts that I think folks should know about.

First, Modern20 has been reviewed a few times lately.

Alan "Psion" Kohler, ENWorld Staff Reviewer has a review that he's put up at RPGNow here.

Mark Gedak, who has reviewed for RPGNow and most recently for the Digital Front podcast hosted by Daniel Perez, has a review of the game up here that originally appeared on the DF.

Lastly, on the Supers20 front, there's an excellent fan-produced campaign model by Darrel Miller which can be found here. There's a lot of good stuff in here, including some well-done NPCs and the way the campaign model is structured is pretty much spot on from the way the official ones are done in the core rules, and in the recently released Whispers in the Dark.

Thanks for taking the time and making something for everyone running Supers20 to share Darrel!

Ok, that's it for now, going back to watching Dr. Horrible.

First look at Urban Mayhem

So I'm about 6 pages into Urban Mayhem, the first full-length adventure for Modern20, which casts the PCs as criminals on the run from the law, framed by a dirty cop for a crime they didn't commit.

And since an adventure without crunch is like half a bl** job, here's your first look at the adventure, and it should give you an idea of the kind of trouble the PCs could land in if they're not careful.

I present a new elite occupation: S.W.A.T.

S.W.A.T. (Special Weapons and Tactics)
S.W.A.T. units are elite police units specially trained and equipped to deal with high-risk operations that fall outside the abilities of normal police officers, including counter-terrorism, hostage rescue and apprehending heavily-armed suspects. The first S.W.A.T. team was established in Los Angeles in the 1960’s but since then many other cities have adopted similar units. A typical S.W.A.T. team consists of 60 men, divided into 6 ten-man teams, which are each comprised of 2 five-man units known as elements. A typical element consists of 1 leader, 2 assaulters, 1 scout and 1 rear-guard.

Not every element has a sniper. Assume that 1 out of 10 members of a S.W.A.T. team is a sniper, approximately 1 per unit (or one per 2 elements). So a full 60-man S.W.A.T. team would have 6 fully qualified snipers.

Prerequisites: Legal 8 ranks, Firearms 8 ranks

Professional Skills: Athletics, Firearms and Vehicles

Improved Feats: Attack Focus: +2 to attack rolls; Awareness: your Will save is considered +2 higher for purposes of this feat; Strength Training: +2 Strength; Teamwork: +3 to attack rolls

Occupation-Specific Perks: Police Powers: you have the power to arrest and detain within the law

Friday, July 18, 2008

Modern Dispatch 121: Whispers in the Dark

The first supplement for Modern20 has been released!

In this street-level campaign model, the PCs are gifted with magical abilities, recruited and trained by a mysterious sorcerer to combat the cult of an elder god that is spreading its worship throughout the world like a cancer.
While the people of their home city go about their daily lives, a war for the very safety of their dimension is being waged in secret, from the glittering skyscrapers high above to the dank sewers beneath their feet.
The wars between the servants of light and the servants of the elder gods have been waged for millennia and are the source of countless “war in heaven” myths, including those found in Babylonian, Christian, Greek and Norse religions

You can buy Whispers in the Dark here.

You can also see the lineup for the next 5 dispatches, coming to you weekly for the next 5 weeks here.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

WWII Supervillain: Charismatic

Once there was a little girl who danced in a beer hall. But I took her away from all that. Now she works for me. My name... is Adolf.

Charismatic (Empath 10): HD 10d8+20; HP 80; Init +1; Spd 30 ft, Fly 60 ft; Defense 24, flatfooted 17 (+1 Dex, +6 Wis, +7 Class); BAB +7; Atk +6 melee (2d6-1 NL, unarmed), or +13 ranged (6d4+0 NL, telekinetic bolt); SQ Resolute, 3 DR vs. physical and energy; AL Traumfrau, Adolf Hitler, Nazi Party; SV Fort +13, Ref +8, Will +13, Rec +11; Rep +10; Str 8, Dex 12, Con 15, Int 10, Wis 22, Cha 14.
Background: Athlete
Occupation: Super team: Perks 4+2 power stunts (Government Sponsored Team, Professional Reputation, Superior Will, Telekinetic Shield; Telekinetic Bolt, Telekinetic Flight)
Hobby: Languages
Skills: Acrobatics 4 (+5), Athletics 4 (+3), Legal 4 (+4), Outdoorsman 13 (+23), Perception 13 (+23), Power Control 13 (+15), Read/Write Language (English, French, German), Speak Language (English, French, German), Streetwise 13 (+23), Unarmed 13 (+12), Vehicles 13 (+14)
Feats: Career Advancement, Mind Over Body, Poise, Power Level x6, Psychic Strike, Superhuman Wisdom, Teamwork (Kampfgruppe Eugenik): +3 attack rolls, Telekinesis
Access/Contacts/Followers: Complete Access, Supply Contact (Kampfgruppe Eugenik): 29 wealth
Wealth: 14
Possessions: None
Character Disadvantages: Code: Sadistic (DSR 5)
Background: Reconnaissance Report: Charismatic
Brunhilde Albrecht was a dancer with her identical twin sister at the beer halls where Hitler got his start in politics. Like her sister, she also is a mutant, though whether her mutation had manifested before Doktor Eugenik experimented on her is unknown. What we do know is that she can crush tanks with her mind and seems to enjoy it.
Quote: “Please continue to struggle. Make me hurt you.”

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Supers20 and the Summer Spectacular

RPGObjects latest book, Supers20, is out now!

And even better, for the next 6 weeks, in honor of the release of Supers20, RPGObjects is taking the dispatch weekly again!

First up, Whispers in the Dark, a street-level magic campaign where the players play fledgling magicians who attempt to stop cults of the Old Gods: Baal, the Jotun, Kthon and Mephistopheles.

Then, it's a complete WWII campaign model in 5 weekly installments!

Week 2 features WWII small arms suitable for any Modern20 campaign set during the war, super or not.

Week 3-6 features the super-teams of WWII: Germany's Kampfgruppe Eugenik (the Eugenics Brigade), Britain's Crown Guard, Japanese Shinjuwan Juunigatsu (Pearl Harbor December) and America's Vigilance Force. Each NPC team features between 6-8 fully fledged NPCs, support characters, adventure hooks and a history of the team prior to the war.

Saturday, July 05, 2008

Ok- this guy rocks

Katanamochi “Sword Bearer” (Powerhouse 10): HD 10d10+20; HP 90; Init +9 (+11 when using aggressive stance); Spd 35 ft, Fly 80 ft; Defense 20, flatfooted 17 (+3 Dex, +7 Class); BAB +10; Atk +16 melee (2d6+8 plus 2d6 electricity, Kamikaze Blade wielded two-handed), or +15 ranged (8d4+0, electrical energy blast); SQ Melee Master; AL The Emperor, Japan; SV Fort +9, Ref +6, Will +4, Rec +7; Rep +5; Str 14, Dex 16, Con 14, Int 10, Wis 12, Cha 8.
Background: Athlete
Occupation: Weapon Master: Perks 2+2 power stunts (Aggressive Stance, Flurry; Lightning Strike, Wind Rider)
Hobby: Languages
Skills: Acrobatics 4 (+7), Athletics 8 (+10), Outdoorsman 13 (+14), Power Control 13 (+15), Read/Write Language (English, German and Japanese), Speak Language (English, German and Japanese), Unarmed 13 (+15), Weapons 13 (+15)
Feats: Accurate Attack: + 3 attack per –2 damage, Armor Piercing (Unique Weapon), Attack Focus (Katana): +2 attack rolls, Control Weather (PL +4, carried device, personal, Kamikaze Blade), Deflection (PL +4, carried device, personal, Kamikaze Blade), Improved Initiative: +6 Initiative, Kenjutsu, Power Level x4, Teamwork (Shinjuwan Juunigatsu): +4 skill checks, Unique Weapon (PL +4, carried device, personal, Kamikaze Blade): +2 attack and damage rolls, +2d6 electricity
Access/Contacts/Followers: Complete Access
Wealth: 14
Possessions: Kamikaze Blade
Character Disadvantages: Obsession: Loyal to the Emperor (DSR 5), Code: Will not refuse honorable, single combat (DSR 5)
Background: Reconnaissance Report: Katanamochi
The Emperor’s personal guard, this warrior has been trained from birth to wield the Kamikaze blade, an ancient weapon capable of controlling the weather and wielded by the Emperor’s chosen protector of Japan for centuries.
Quote: “I am the divine protector of Japan, chosen by the Son of Heaven himself. No one can defeat me!”

Friday, July 04, 2008

Things are happening

Just a quick rundown on what's coming from RPGO:

1. Supers20 is in layout and the first round of edits have been made to the final.
2. Chris and I recorded a podcast where we discussed future plans (including talk of future fantasy stuff from us), and a Supers20 specific podcast where we go through the book and highlight stuff we think is cool.
3. The Whispers in the Dark Campaign Model for Supers20 is done and will appear as a dispatch issue the same month the game is released.
4. A new version (version 1.2) of Modern20 has been done, just a few tiny tweaks. This will also release the same month as Supers20. This will of course be free for all current owners of Modern20.
5. Supers20 WWII supplement (working title) is at 21 pages and counting. So far this book includes 2 hero teams, 2 villain teams, and WWII small arms for the Modern20 and Supers20 rules sets. This may appear as one book, or be broken into numerous dispatch issues (probably 3-4). Stay tuned.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Living! Legends! Line-ups!

That's right true believers! I am writing Living Legends: Heroes and Villains of WWII as we speak!

You poor, poor people have not yet seen Supers20 but I am writing the second (!) supplement for it as we speak, currently 18 pages and counting of WWII super-powered goodness.

I've felt a little guilty at having all this awesome to myself, so I've already given you two of the heroes from this book on the sly: Minuteman, an American hero and Excalibur, a British hero.

And now, in my continuing drive to share the wealth, I present to you the complete line-ups of the WWII superhero teams, Britain's Crown Guard and America's Vigilance Force.

Crown Guard

Big Ben

London lawyer originally deemed unfit for military service. Mutant powers of growth manifested in a collapsing bomb shelter, saving himself and the civilians trapped with him.


One of two sons of the WWI hero Excalibur. Early in the war the twins fought side by side as Sword and Stone, with Sword wielding their father's magic sword, the legendary Excalibur, while his brother Stone wore the Armor of the Templars and the Amulet of St. George.

The two brothers fought valiantly to save Winston Churchill from Kampfgruppe Eugenik on the eve of the Battle of Britain, a battle they one at the cost of Stone's life. Now one brother continues on, wielding all three holy relics as Excalibur.


A man with no past. The world's greatest spy. Is he a mutant? No one knows. All they know is that he can get anywhere and, despite being a below average physical specimen, emerge unharmed from the heaviest firefight.

Serves as the Crown Guard's point man and tactical advisor.


An artificially intelligent machine created by the mysterious Dr. Sorenson, Ironclad is self-aware, 12 feet tall and has had the laws of robotics suspended by his creator for the duration of the conflict.


When James O'Sullivan's fighter was shot down during the Battle of Britain, his mutant powers manifested. As Repulse, he has complete control over magnetism allowing him to shred enemy tanks with a thought.


The son of WWI hero Nautilus, Swordfish is superhumanly strong and can move at superhuman speeds on land, in the air and in the water. His specialty is disabling enemy shipping with his bare hands, allowing much needed war supplies from the Arsenal of Democracy to reach Britain unmolested.

Vigilance Force

Captain Miracle

Discovered at a carnival sideshow, this mutant is the smartest man on Earth. In addition to a powerful sonic cannon, he has constructed the Night Flyer, the world's first jet aircraft, capable of carrying the entire Vigilance Force anywhere in the world at an estimated 800 mph!


President Roosevelt's National Crime Czar has gone from busting stills in Chicago during Prohibition to searching out the most powerful men and women of Vigilance Force! After recruiting, organizing and training the team, Deuce will remain in America to guard the homefront from saboteurs and seek out new heroes as they emerge.

Freight Train

Superhuman speed and strength combine into a powerful package. Banned from football when his mutant ability to run at 70 mph and lift 6 tons emerge, Freight Train now plays for the greatest team of all: America.


Where did she come from? Details aren't forthcoming, all we know is that this brainy beauty shoots down enemy aircraft from the back of a flying insect! Just don't call her a Queen Bee!


Another recent addition to the team, Sgt. Max Morley brings the fighting spirit of the Marine Corps to Vigilance Force! I bet the rest of the Marines wish they were bulletproof, and fireproof. That's right Uncle Adolf, bullets bounce off the skin of this marine!


In every war since the Revolutionary War a mysterious hero named the Minuteman has emerged. But this knight has a suit of shining armor to go with the legendary speed of past Minutemen.

Old Glory

Master of fire, this teenage sensation is a Fourth of July fireworks display ready to light up the skies over Tokyo, then Paris and then Berlin!


You have to see him to believe him! Talon, the boy raised by wolves who travels with his very own pack! Watch out you German "wolf packs" because ours are bigger and meaner than anything you ever imagined.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Dont mess with Ex

Excalibur a.k.a. Sir Richard Lathon (Powerhouse 10): HD 10d10+30; HP 100; Init +1; Spd 35 ft; Defense 18, flatfooted 17 (+1 Dex, +7 Class); BAB +10; Atk +17 melee (1d8+12 armor piercing, Excalibur), or +11 ranged (1d8+5, compound bow); SQ Melee Master, 7 DR vs. physical, 14 DR vs. psychic, +3 Will saves, +3 saves vs. magic; AL Her Majesty, Code of Chivalry; SV Fort +10, Ref +4, Will +8, Rec +8; Rep +9; Str 14, Dex 12, Con 16, Int 10, Wis 14, Cha 8.
Background: Religion
Occupation: Superagent: Perks 2+2 power stunts (Professional Reputation, Flurry; Psi Screen, Resist Magic)
Hobby: Outdoorsman
Skills: Athletics 13 (+15), Legal 4 (+4), Outdoorsman 4 (+6), Perception 4 (+6), Power Control 13 (+16), Unarmed 13 (+15), Weapons 13 (+15)
Feats: Armor (PL +1 worn device, personal, Templar’s Armor), Armor Piercing (Excalibur), Attack Focus (Sword), Attack Specialization (Sword), Greater Attack Specialization (Sword), Mind Shield (PL +1 worn device, personal, Amulet of St. George), Power Level x6, Unique Weapon (Excalibur): +3 attack and damage rolls; weapon cannot be wielded by anyone else until subject’s death, at which time weapon will disappear until a suitable hero appears during a time of need for Great Britain
Access/Contacts/Followers: Complete Access, Supply Contact (Crown Guard): 23 wealth
Wealth: 12
Possessions: Templar’s Armor, Amulet of St. George, Excalibur
Character Disadvantages: Code: Code of Chivalry- scrupulously honest and brave, will defend those weaker than himself (DSR 5)
Background: Report to Her Majesty by Sir Nigel Fischer
Sir Lathon has been thoroughly tested and evaluated following the death of his brother in battle defending the Prime Minister. He seems genuinely content with the honorable manner of his brother’s death and determined to carry on his mission in defense of the Crown until his death. He removed the crusade-era armor and a simple, brass necklace from his brother’s body then requested the rest be cremated.
Quote: “Face me you cur!”

Friday, June 27, 2008

That power that lets you make that dude with the bow

Unique Weapon
You have an amazing weapon.
Duration: Permanent
Range: You
Effect: You have a standard weapon that gains a bonus equal to one-half your power level. This bonus may be spent on the following things:
· Grant a +1 bonus to attack and damage rolls (maximum +5).
· Imbue the weapon with +1d6 cold, electricity, fire, radiation or sonic damage.
· Inflict +1d6 additional damage on a called shot or precision strike (this represents an especially sharp edged weapon or a vicious, bone-breaking blunt weapon).
· Inflict damage to an entire square. If this taken a second time the weapon inflicts damage in a 10’ radius. Each additional time this is taken the weapon’s damage extends another 10 feet.
· Inflict no damage, inflict Blindness or Deafness on a successful attack, unless a Fortitude saving throw succeeds (DC equal to 15+ your power level).
· Ricochet (as described under the Blast power above).
For example, a hero at Power Level 10 would have a total bonus of +5. He could have his unique weapon gain a +5 bonus to hit and damage, inflict +5d6 electricity damage on a successful attack, or have a +2 bonus to hit and damage and inflict +3d6 electrical damage on a successful attack.


Variable Weapon: You can change the properties of your weapon from round to round. This could represent a weapon that can change according to your mental command, or an archer with a blinding variety of specialty arrows, and so forth.

Note: This power does not require the Device limitation as the weapon could be one you can recall to your hand with a thought, or one which is impossible for anyone else to duplicate or use (such as an immovable hammer, or blade of psychic energy generated from your body).

The Minuteman of WWII

Minuteman a.k.a. Samuel Mason (Powerhouse 10): HD 10d10+30; HP 100; Init +1; Spd 35 ft, Fly 180 ft; Defense 18, flatfooted 17 (+1 Dex, +7 Class); BAB +10; Atk +19 melee (2d6+7 NL, unarmed), or +11 ranged (Control Time); SQ Melee Master; AL United States, Brotherhood of the Hourglass; SV Fort +10, Ref +4, Will +4, Rec +8; Rep +5; Str 24, Dex 13, Con 16, Int 10, Wis 12, Cha 8.
Background: Dilettante
Occupation: Superagent Perks: 2 (Professional Salary x2)
Hobby: Outdoorsman
Skills: Athletics 13 (+20), Legal 13 (+13), Outdoorsman 4 (+5), Perception 4 (+5), Unarmed 13 (+20), Vehicles 13 (+14)
Feats: Armor (PL +2, worn device, personal, Minuteman Mk I Battlesuit), Attack Focus (Unarmed): +2 attack rolls, Control Time (PL +2, worn device, personal, Minuteman Mk I Battlesuit), Flight (PL +2, worn device, personal, Minuteman Mk I Battlesuit), Power Level x7, Superhuman Strength (PL +2, worn device, personal, Minuteman Mk I Battlesuit), Teamwork (Vigilance Force): +4 skill checks
Access/Contacts/Followers: Complete Access (member of an elite secret society with contacts at all levels of government)
Wealth: 30
Possessions: Minuteman armor
Character Disadvantages: Code: Protect the United States from all threats foreign and domestic (DSR 5), Nemesis: The Chronicler (DSR 3)
Background: From the private journal of Samuel Mason
For generations my family has protected this Republic. For every war, one of us has stepped forward to accept the mantle of the Minuteman, using the enchanted clockwork mechanism that allowed us to speed up or slow down time. Ezekiel Mason served as a special agent for General Washington during the Revolutionary War, and Janine Mason served as a scout for the North during the Civil War.

And now, as this nation faces perhaps its greatest test, I have been called to prove myself worthy of this great legacy and have been entrusted with not only the enchanted timepiece. But desperate times call for desperate measures and my brothers feel that even our weapon through the ages will not be enough. Instead of the handheld timepiece we have used in the past, the clockwork mechanism has been built into the chest plate of a might suit of armor, brought back by my order from the far future.

May it prove sufficient to protect this great Republic.

Quote: “I am the Minuteman. I fight for freedom.”

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Other industries that need iteration and improvement

I've been thinking, there's a lot of other industries that could benefit from Forge-style communities.

Novels for instance.

Why are there all these kinds of novels? Why I went to the bookstore the other day, and there were romance novels, historical fiction, non-fiction, "for dummies", graphic novels, fantasy, sci-fi.

Gah! It's maddening! If novelists would put their work online for FREE, a community would spring up, and they could ITERATE, coming up with a genre and format that would work better for everyone involved.

Save us Mike Mearls! You're our only hope!

Sort of a follow-up

Something I hear a lot in comparing the Linux community to the OGL community is that Linux people release their programs for free, everyone works on them and they get better.

If RPG people weren't so eager to make a buck (singular), their stuff could get improved too.

We're stifling innovation all microsoft style with our $2.50 PDFs!

Except here's the thing: it's my belief that the fact that PDF sales continue to climb, at a time when RPG sales fall generally, proves this isn't the case.

If PDFs weren't worth buying, NO ONE WOULD BUY THEM.

Yes, Virigina, there really is a thing called capitalism, and it really does work.

As for why there isn't more iteration, more "improvement", the answer is simple: while RPGs might not be art, there's enough art there that not everyone can agree on what's an improvement.

Is an improvement the most grim and gritty combat system around, where a single solid hit means grisly death or disfigurment?

Is it light and breezy rules focused on role-playing?

Is it classless, point-based and diceless?

Is it classes and levels and talent trees?

If only Ron Edwards or Mike Mearls could start a site where we could learn from them they could answer these questions!

Where's Che Geuverra when we need him?!?!?

So there's this thread at CM, which is linked from a thread at ENW (major meta-alert!)

Anyway, we have a few claims being made in this thread that interest me a lot, for reasons which should be apparent.

And Mike Mearls jumps right in with both feet, to tell us what we REALLY need is his old RPG Wiki idea, combined with a Forge-like site, where the Ron Edwards of mainstream RPGs could emerge and all us wannabe designers could sit at his feet, gaze up and learn from the master.

Others chime in about what a bad open source community the OGL is, compared to Linux (which is obviously perfect in every way) because we "gasp" charge for our products.

As one poster put it, we lock our innovations behind a dollar sign.

Say it so! Ah've got the vapuhs!

And since this is my damn blog, we conclude with my thoughts:

But we already have that, and it's called the PDF community.

It's funny, despite being dominated by "companies not fans", even though most of those companies are a single person who makes a few hundred bucks PER YEAR off his PDF "company" (sounds more like a fan with a tip jar to me), and despite their stuff being "locked behind a dollar sign", the number, quality and overall design chops of PDFs have grown tremendously.

I say this as someone who released a seriously janky PDF, with no previous writing experience back in the day, who saw that PDF at one time listed with the top 50 PDF sales ALL TIME on the site.

Today that PDF, to put it mildly, would not do well on the site.

So somehow, fans seem to be improving their design skills and releasing better product, to the point where they can stand toe to toe with design houses led by Chris Pramas, Monte Cook and Phil Reed.

And again, I speak from personal experience: RPGObjects was started by three guys with no previous experience in the industry, and we're a top ten vendor on RPGNow today, in the same league as Green Ronin and Malhavoc Press and Ronin Arts (before they left the site).

And somehow, we and lots of others, did this without a Forge site where we could learn at the feet of Ron Edwards, Mike Mearls or anyone else.

Maybe, just maybe, such a site isn't required to learn design skills.

Maybe this crazy thing called capitalism works.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Something terrible shambles out of the darkness...

Elder God (Powerhouse 15/Star 15): HD 15d10+180 plus 15d8+180; HP 555; Init +0; Spd 40 ft; Defense 32, flatfooted 32 (+0 Dex, +22 Class); BAB +26; Atk +38 melee (2d8+32, claws), or +26 ranged (by weapon or power); SQ Melee Master, 20 DR physical, 20 DR energy, 40 DR psychic; AL none; SV Fort +26, Ref +12, Will +15, Rec +24; Rep +26; Str 34, Dex 10, Con 34, Int 10, Wis 12, Cha 36.
Background: Religion
Occupation: Mastermind: Perks 2+4 power stunts (Professional Reputation, Power Punch;
Hobby: Magic
Skills: Athletics 18 (+30), Influence 22 (+35), Leadership 23 (+36), Magic 22 (+35), Perception 22 (+23), Power Control 23 (+35), Unarmed 18 (+30), Weapons 18 (+30), 23 unspent
Feats: Absorption, Armor, Claws, Followers, Magic, Mind Shield, Superhuman Charisma, Superhuman Constitution, Superhuman Strength, Power Level x20, 4 unspent
Access/Contacts/Followers: Complete Access, 21 unspent (plus 20 more for followers only)
Wealth: 20
Possessions: VariesCharacter Disadvantages: Varies

One customizable elder god.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

The Savant

The Savant (Brainiac 20): HD 20d8; HP 120; Init -1; Spd 30 ft; Defense 37, flatfooted 37 (-1 Dex, +13 Int, +15 Class); BAB +15; Atk +13 melee (by weapon -2), or +14 ranged (16d4+0, energy bolt); SQ Thinker, 8 DR physical and energy; AL Medusa, Old Glory; SV Fort +6, Ref +8, Will +15, Rec +6; Rep +11; Str 6, Dex 8, Con 10, Int 36, Wis 16, Cha 16.
Background: Criminal
Occupation: Superagent: Perks 3+4 power stunts (Cracking, Identity Theft, Electronics; Energy Bolt, Flight, Force Field, Super Followers)
Hobby: Firearms
Skills: Academics (Genetics) 23 (+36), Academics (Cybernetics/Robotics) 23 (+36), Chemistry 23 (+36), Computers 23 (+66), Crime 23 (+36), Engineering 23 (+36), Firearms 4 (+3), Leadership 23 (+26), Legal 23 (+36), Perception 23 (+26), Power Control 23 (+23), Read/Write Language (Ancient Greek, English, German, Japanese, Russian), Speak Language (Ancient Greek, English, German, Japanese, Russian), Streetwise 23 (+26), Vehicles 23 (+22)
Feats: Career Advancement, Computer Link, Control Energy (PL +1, worn device, personal, Hoverchair), Followers, Gadgetry, Master Plan, Power Level x15, Smart Defense, Superhuman Intelligence
Access/Contacts/Followers: Supply Contact (Medusa): 31 wealth, illegal equipment, Followers: Ophelia and Laertes, 4th level cybernetically modified Dobermans
Wealth: 16
Possessions: Varies
Character Disadvantages: Age: 71+ (DSR 3), Obsession: live forever (DSR 5)
Background: The following manuscript was found in a fireproof cylinder in the office of Gen. Fred Williamson, U.S.H.E.R. Director of Research and Development in the aftermath of a fire that consumed all research notes and materials at U.S.H.E.R.’s main headquarters underneath Liberty Tower.

It just isn’t fair. I’ve done so much for you, for all of you, sacrificed, oh god have I sacrificed. How many friends did we watch die Chris? How many times were we reactivated for “emergency situations”, thrown into harm’s way again and again?

And we did it all willingly for them, always willing to take one more chance for life, liberty, the American Dream. And I asked for one thing. Just one. Crazy they said. Trials on human subjects? Thousands of casualties? Short-sighted fools! I was talking about immortality! Not just for me, but for everyone! They claimed it would never work. How many of my inventions did they think would work Chris?

How many times did they call on me to solve the unsolvable? I missed VE Day working with them on that damn bomb. Well, no more playing the good soldier for me Chris. They owe me. I’m collecting. I never had any family, you know, just the Orphanage, and then The Brigade. You have always been the little brother I never had Chris, and I will always love you. And so, I’m going to ask you for just one favor: don’t come after me.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Star BAB issue

So my players and I had a long, long chat about my reasons for upping the Star's BAB and I thought I'd share my reasoning here:

1. No one took the class. I pay attention to this kind of thing, and tend to think player choices over the long term can provide clues to balance.

2. Even when players DID take the Star class, it was usually for a specific reason and usually short term. None of the other classes saw this pattern. Players were more willing to take the class and stay in it long term.

3. When players wanted a high Reputation they tried to get it by other means, such as perks.

So why did the Star wind up being the only class with a low BAB to begin with?

In playtests, the Star was quite possibly THE most powerful class. But in actual play, seemed less powerful. As I pondered this, it occured to me that the Star was nerfed repeatedly during the "round robin" phase of the playtest.

Everytime I do a book, we do a round robin phase, to balance the classes against each other. The Star really dominated that phase of the playtest, because of wealth and followers.

These two factors are both much more pronounced in a one on one setting (like the round robin playtests) than in a group setting.

For example, an 8th level Star with Professional Reputation (total Rep of +12) can have a 6th level follower. But let's assume he wants other things, like some access, but considers a follower a core part of his character and devotes two-thirds of his RP to a single follower.

Spending 8 points on a follower gives him a 4th level henchman.

In the round robin, where it's 8th level PC against 8th PC, having a 4th level flunky is a HUGE advantage.

In an actual PLAY session, with four 8th level PCs, a 4th level Henchman is an afterthought.

In the final analysis, there just wasn't enough justification for that low BAB in the other things the Star got.

Monday, June 16, 2008

The Accidental Survivors want to believe

So I actually haven't been posting about this every episode, which is an oversight on my part, especially since I'm a regular now.

Anyway, new episode up, all about conspiracy theories!

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Old Glory

Old Glory (Speedfreak 20): HD 20d8+60; HP 180; Init +10; Spd 30 ft, Fly 300 ft; Defense 40, flatfooted 30 (+10 Dex, +20 Class); BAB +15; Atk +14 melee (2d12-1 NL, martial arts), or +14 melee (17d4, fire aura), or +25 ranged (17d4+0, fire blast); SQ Need for speed, +15 saves vs. heat and fire, 30 DR vs. heat and fire, 4 DR physical (not vs. piercing); AL United States, Mutant Rights, U.S.H.E.R.; SV Fort +12, Ref +22, Will +7, Rec +9; Rep +20; Str 8, Dex 30, Con 16, Int 10, Wis 12, Cha 16.
Background: Military
Occupation: Superagent: Perks 4+4 power stunts (Group Cohesion, Inspire Courage, Professional Reputation x2; Fire Bolt, Immunity to Fire, Resist Fire, Quench Fire)
Hobby: Legal
Skills: Acrobatics 23 (+33), Influence 4 (+7), Legal 4 (+4), Perception 4 (+5), Leadership 23 (+26), Power Control 23 (+26), Unarmed 23 (+22), Vehicles 4 (+14)
Feats: Aura, energy (PL +2 limited energy type, fire), Career Advancement x2, Control Fire, Cross Training (Leadership), Evasion, Flight, Power Level x15, Superhuman Dexterity
Access/Contacts/Followers: Complete Access, Skill Contact (Lobbying Firm of McCoy-Munroe): 23 ranks Influence, Skill Contact (Tentacles Tomlinson): 23 ranks Streetwise, Supply Contact (U.S.H.E.R.): 48 wealth
Wealth: 16
Possessions: Concealable Vest (immune to fire)
Character Disadvantages: Code: Protect the innocent and helpless (DSR 5), Code: Defend mutant rights (DSR 5)
Background: Interview with Christian Thomason, a.k.a. Old Glory, done for Newstime special Man of the Century Issue asked how he got his famous name.

“I was born in Fort Wayne, Indiana, in 1925. One of the first mutants on record, so they tell me. I was inducted into the US Army- Air Corps on January 17th 1938, 3 days after my 13th birthday, and was sent to the Tuskeegee Superhuman Testing and Training Range, we called it the “STT”.

The Germans had their Eugenics Brigade already of course, and they were having a grand old
time high-stepping around Europe. Britain only had The Sword and the Stone at that time, and they had managed to send the Jerries scurrying home with their tails between their legs after the Battle of Britain, but no one else in Europe had anything like those Eugenics scientists, and they turned the tide of battle after battle, Hitler always yammering on about his “Master Race”.
But our intelligence boys told us the Germans didn’t make these “Ubermenschen”, they were just finding them, training them, and using their science to juice em up. So, the Army started rounding up anyone with unusual abilities. Hell we were all happy to join, and were aching to get in on the action. We knew the score.”

“I was the first, but it wasn’t long before I was joined by others. Over the course of that year I was joined by Raymont “Freight Train” Jefferson, they drafted him after his performance in the state football finals, kid broke 11 tackles, and 3 legs, on his way to the end zone for the winning touchdown.

Turns out Raymont could pick up cars as well as tacklers. One of those kids he busted up never did walk right again, damn shame, but Raymont did right by him, sent him part of his check every month till the day he died in that... well that’s a different story I guess. I always loved to watch Ray run though”.

“Then there was Fred Wilson, who army intelligence had picked up at a local circus, he had this act see, he’d let folks drive over radios with a car, then have those radios up and running again in 30 seconds or less. Called himself “Captain Miracle”, and I guess the Army liked it, cause they used that for his code name too. And me? Well I was given my code name by FDR himself.
It was December 8th 1939, and with everything else he had going, the President wanted to come down and have a look at us, make sure we were REALLY ready to stand up to the likes of Donnerschlag and Götterdämmerung. I was doing combat flying exercises, and I saw him first. Me and the boys had worked out a signal for him bein’ there, so we wouldn’t be cutting
up when he got there. We didn’t want him thinking we weren’t ready, we wanted to get in there and start pulling America’s weight.”

“So anyway, I saw him and snatched up the flag off the top of the PX and buzzed the boys on the ground with it, but I guess I wasn’t fast enough. Roosevelt saw me, and said to his wife, “Well if Old Glory’s flying with us I guess we’ll be all right after all”.

Old Glory. I liked that just fine. Those army boys had been wanting to call me the “Human Flamethrower” or some such nonsense. But Old Glory... well... let’s just say no one argued with Roosevelt. Except maybe Mrs. Roosevelt.”

Friday, June 13, 2008

Stars should have a medium BAB

This is going in the next revision of the game. Those of you reading this can start playing that way right now if you wish.

That is all.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

An exerpt from the Superagents campaign model

Atlas Battalion

Formed during the cold war to counteract the threat of the Soviet Shturmovik agency, the Atlas Battalion is U.S.H.E.R.’s heaviest combat unit, wearing the Atlas MK IV exoskeleton, which enables the wearer to lift up to 2 tons as well as make tremendous leaps. Wearing full body armor, trained in a variety of deadly hand-to-hand disciplines and carrying lethal weaponry, this unit is called upon to face the worst threats. With the fall of the Soviet Union, battlesuit and exoskeleton technology has been sold to many 3rd world countries and the Shturmovik have begun hiring themselves out as mercenaries, making this unit’s services more valuable than ever.

Typical Atlas Agent (Powerhouse 5): HD 5d10+10; HP 40; Init +1; Spd 30 ft (20 ft in armor), Leap 80 ft; Defense 14, flatfooted 13 (+1 Dex, +3 Class); BAB +5; Atk +12 melee (1d8+5, unarmed), or +6 ranged (2d8+4, hand stunner); SQ Melee Master, 9 DR physical (not vs. piercing); AL U.S.H.E.R.; SV Fort +6, Ref +2, Will +2, Rec +5; Rep +7; Str 20, Dex 12, Con 14, Int 10, Wis 13, Cha 8.
Background: Military
Occupation: Superagent: Perks 3 (Agency Rank, Power Punch, Professional Reputation)
Hobby: Legal
Skills: Athletics 8 (+5), Engineering 4 (+4), Firearms 8 (+9), Legal 4 (+4), Outdoorsman 4 (+5), Perception 4 (+5), Unarmed 8 (+13), Weapons 8 (+13)
Feats: Attack Focus (unarmed): +2 attack rolls, Career Advancement, Combat Martial Arts, Power Level x2, Superhuman Strength (PL +2 worn device, personal, Atlas exoskeleton), Superleap (PL +2 worn device, personal, Atlas exoskeleton), Teamwork (U.S.H.E.R.): +4 skill checks
Access/Contacts/Followers: Secret Access, Supply Contact (U.S.H.E.R.): 24 wealth
Wealth: 8
Possessions: Hand Stunner, Forced Entry Unit
Character Disadvantages: Varies

Elite Atlas Agent (Powerhouse 8): HD 8d10+16; HP 64; Init +1; Spd 30 ft (20 ft in armor), Leap 100 ft; Defense 17, flatfooted 16 (+1 Dex, +6 Class); BAB +8; Atk +16 melee (1d10+8, unarmed), or +9 ranged (2d8+4, disintegrator rifle); SQ Melee Master, 9 DR physical (not vs. piercing); AL U.S.H.E.R.; SV Fort +8, Ref +3, Will +3, Rec +6; Rep +10; Str 22, Dex 12, Con 14, Int 10, Wis 13, Cha 8.
Background: Military
Occupation: Superagent: Perks 4 (Agency Rank, Power Punch, Precision Strike, Professional Reputation)
Hobby: Legal
Skills: Athletics 11 (+9), Engineering 4 (+4), Firearms 11 (+12), Legal 4 (+4), Outdoorsman 4 (+5), Perception 4 (+5), Unarmed 11 (+17), Weapons 11 (+17)
Feats: Attack Focus (unarmed): +2 attack rolls, Attack Specialization (unarmed), Career Advancement x2, Combat Martial Arts, Power Level x3, Superhuman Strength (PL +2 worn device, personal, Atlas exoskeleton), Superleap (PL +2 worn device, personal, Atlas exoskeleton), Teamwork (U.S.H.E.R.): +4 skill checks
Access/Contacts/Followers: Top Secret Access, Supply Contact (U.S.H.E.R.): 33 wealth
Wealth: 9
Possessions: Disintegrator Rifle, Forced Entry Unit, Jet Cycle
Character Disadvantages: Varies

Monday, June 09, 2008

Supers20: a skill hero

So here's a character who relies completely on his skills and devices. I think this is a competitive character, even without a single Superhuman ability score power.

The Veteran (Powerhouse 15): HD 15d10+45; HP 150; Init +0; Spd 30 ft (Leap 240 feet); Defense 21, flatfooted 21 (+0 Dex, +11 Class); BAB +15; Atk +18 melee (17d4+0, energy sword), or +15 ranged (2d8+4, disintegrator rifle); SQ Melee Master, 12 DR physical; AL Scion; SV Fort +12, Ref +5, Will +5, Rec +10; Rep +12; Str 14, Dex 10, Con 16, Int 12, Wis 10, Cha 13.
Background: Military
Occupation: Military Officer: Perks 3+3 power stunts (Military Rank, Professional Reputation, Weapons Flurry; Environmental Seal, Heat Resistant Armor, Cold Resistant Armor)
Hobby: Engineering
Skills: Engineering 4 (+5), Firearms 18 (+18), Leadership 18 (+19), Outdoorsman 4 (+4), Perception 4 (+28), Power Control 18 (+21), Unarmed 18 (+20), Vehicles 4 (+4), Weapons 18 (+20)
Feats: Armed Defense (30 defense with move action), Armor (PL +2 worn device, personal- armored vac suit), Attack Focus (Sword), Career Advancement, Damage Touch: energy (PL +5 carried device, simple, governed by Weapons skill- energy sword; lethal only), Enhanced Senses (PL +2 worn device, personal- armored vac suit), Power Level x10, Superleap (PL +2 worn device, personal- armored vac suit), Teamwork (Host): +3 attack rolls
Access/Contacts/Followers: Supply Contact: 41 wealth, military equipment (The Armorer)
Wealth: 13
Possessions: Disintegrator Rifle, Jet Cycle, Orbital Craft
Character Disadvantages: Code: Loyal to Scion (DSR 5)

Sunday, June 08, 2008

Fine, make it weird

From a lecture I'm listening to on the late middle ages: "At one point the Hundred Years War was going so bad for France that the country was fighting for its very survival and had to place itself in the hands of a crossdressing peasant girl who heard voices in her head".

Well sheesh, it sounds weird when you put it like that.

Friday, June 06, 2008

Generic NPC customization example

This is for my home game tonight. Let's time it and see how long we take. First, here's the generic psychic:

Elite Psychic (Empath 12): HD 12d8+36; HP 108; Init +1; Spd 30 ft; Defense 26, flatfooted 19 (+1 Dex, +6 Wis, +9 Class); BAB +9; Atk +8 melee (1d4-1, unarmed), or +15 ranged (8d4+0, psychic blast); SQ Resolute; AL none; SV Fort +14, Ref +9, Will +14, Rec +12; Rep +6; Str 8, Dex 12, Con 16, Int 10, Wis 23, Cha 14.
Background: Criminal
Occupation: Soldier: Perks 2+2 power stunt (Precision Strike, 1 perk unspent, 2 power stunt unspent)
Hobby: Unarmed
Skills: Crime 4 (+4), Legal 15 (+15), Outdoorsman 15 (+21), Perception 15 (+21), Power Control 15 (+18), Stealth 4 (+5), Streetwise 15 (+21), Unarmed 4 (+3), Vehicles 4 (+5), 15 unspent
Feats: Blast (psychic), Mind Over Body, Poise, Psychic Strike, Superhuman Wisdom, Power Level x8, 2 unspent
Access/Contacts/Followers: Varies (6 points)
Wealth: 11
Possessions: None
Character Disadvantages: Varies

Now, let's do two variations to throw at the PCs.

Character concept #1: Psychic Assassin

Night Terror (Empath 12): HD 12d8+36; HP 108; Init +1; Spd 30 ft (Teleport 80 ft); Defense 26, flatfooted 19 (+1 Dex, +6 Wis, +9 Class); BAB +9; Atk +8 melee (1d4-1, unarmed), or +15 ranged (8d4+0, psychic blast); SQ Resolute; AL none; SV Fort +14, Ref +9, Will +14, Rec +12; Rep +6; Str 8, Dex 12, Con 16, Int 10, Wis 23, Cha 14.
Background: Criminal
Occupation: Soldier: Perks 2+2 power stunt (Precision Strike, Transporter, Blinking, Security Systems)
Hobby: Unarmed
Skills: Crime 4 (+4), Legal 15 (+15), Outdoorsman 15 (+21), Perception 15 (+21), Power Control 15 (+18), Stealth 4 (+5), Streetwise 15 (+21), Unarmed 4 (+3), Vehicles 4 (+5), Stealth 15 (+16)
Feats: Blast (psychic), Mind Over Body, Poise, Psychic Strike, Superhuman Wisdom, Power Level x8, Cross Training (stealth), Teleport
Access/Contacts/Followers: Varies (6 points)
Wealth: 11
Possessions: None
Character Disadvantages: Varies

Cross training and spending the unspent skill points turns her into a stealthy character, while teleportation means almost no building can keep her out.

Spent her unspent perk on Security Systems for defusing alarms and sabotaging cameras.

Power stunts spent on Transporter (increased carrying capacity while teleporting to take equipment along) and Blinking (defense bonus).

Total time: 11 minutes

Character Concept #2: Sorcerer Apprentice

Desert Dervish (Empath 12): HD 12d8+36; HP 108; Init +1; Spd 30 ft (Fly 200 feet); Defense 26, flatfooted 19 (+1 Dex, +6 Wis, +9 Class); BAB +9; Atk +8 melee (1d4-1, unarmed), or +15 ranged (10d4+0, psychic blast); SQ Resolute; AL none; SV Fort +14, Ref +9, Will +14, Rec +12; Rep +6; Str 8, Dex 12, Con 16, Int 10, Wis 23, Cha 14.
Background: Criminal
Occupation: Soldier: Perks 2+2 power stunt (Precision Strike, Stealth- Desert, Cone Blast, Line Blast)
Hobby: Unarmed
Skills: Crime 4 (+4), Legal 15 (+15), Outdoorsman 15 (+21), Perception 15 (+21), Power Control 15 (+18), Stealth 4 (+5), Streetwise 15 (+21), Unarmed 4 (+3), Vehicles 4 (+5), Magic 15 (+17)
Feats: Blast (psychic) (Worn Device +2- Amulet of the Dervish), Mind Over Body, Poise, Psychic Strike, Superhuman Wisdom, Power Level x8, Flight (Worn Device +2- Amulet of the Dervish), Magic (Worn Device +2- Amulet of the Dervish)
Access/Contacts/Followers: Varies (6 points)
Wealth: 11
Possessions: None
Character Disadvantages: Varies

Spent his unspent perk on Stealth- Desert from Outdoorsman, since we have an arabian motif going on here.

Spent power stunts on two different types of area effect for the psychic blast, Cone and Line, meaning he'll have options to snag multiple PCs from round to round.

Spent the unspent powers on Flight and Magic for mobility and versatility, then got a little fancy and put the blast through the same device, upping its power level and damage by 2 dice.

If the PCs encounter these two in the desert, they might be on them before they even know they're there.

Total Time: 11 minutes, well it seems I'm consistent.

Not bad. Two very different mid-level NPCs in less than 30 minutes.

Thursday, June 05, 2008

Soldiers and Spellfighters for Modern20 revealed!

Just wanted to direct everyone's attention to Mike Lafferty's new Soldiers and Spellfighters for Modern20, the expansion of his Wizards and Wiseguys supplement for d20 Modern, this vastly expanded and upgraded setting focuses on the Great War (WW I) and is a full-blown Modern20 setting of magic and modern mayhem!

Check out the official post, as well as some awesome Rick Hershey art here!

A generic energy projector

Elite Energy Projector (Speedfreak 12): HD 12d8+36; HP 108; Init +7; Spd 35 ft (Fly 160 ft); Defense 29, flatfooted 22 (+7 Dex, +12 Class); BAB +9; Atk +8 melee (by weapon), or +17 ranged (8d4+0, energy blast); SQ Need for speed, 4 DR physical and energy; AL none; SV Fort +9, Ref +15, Will +5, Rec +7; Rep +6; Str 8, Dex 24, Con 16, Int 10, Wis 13, Cha 12.
Background: Criminal
Occupation: Soldier: Perks 2+2 power stunt (Tumble, Area Blast 10 feet, 1 power stunt unspent)
Hobby: Firearms
Skills: Acrobatics 15 (+22), Athletics 15 (+14), Crime 4 (+4), Firearms 4 (+11), Perception 4 (+5), Power Control 15 (+18), Streetwise 15 (+16), Vehicles 4 (+11)
Feats: Attack Focus (blast), Blast (energy), Flight, Force Field, Superhuman Dexterity, Power Level x8, 2 Unspent
Access/Contacts/Followers: Varies (6 points)
Wealth: 11
Possessions: NoneCharacter Disadvantages: Varies

So here's an example of one thing we're doing in Supers20.

Modern20 ended with a presentation of generic NPCs to make the GMs life easier. Given that supers is, if anything, harder to run, we're doing that again, this time with a twist.

Some people didn't like how specific the Modern20 NPCs were. They weren't really generic, they each had a strong niche.

In Supers20, we're addressing that concern by leaving some of the NPCs feats unspent. In a supers context, this has a dramatic effect on the character.

Imagine the character above, if you spent his two feats on Earth Control and Fire Control.

Now imagine the same character with Telekinesis and Magic.

Voila! With the addition of a couple of feats, you have a vastly different character in just a few minutes.

It's my hope that this will take some of the burden off the GM and allow him to throw together simple scenarios quickly.

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Another Sample NPC: Wraith

This one from the "Freshman Class" campaign model, here's the owner/operator of the Doleman Academy for the Gifted, Saul Doleman aka Wraith.

Saul “Wraith” Doleman (Star 15): HD 15d8+15; HP 95; Init +2; Spd 30 ft (Fly 100 ft); Defense 23, flatfooted 21 (+2 Dex, +11 Class); BAB +7; Atk +6 melee (1d6-1, sap), or +9 ranged (1d4+0, Taser); SQ Friends in high places; AL Mutant High Students, U.S.H.E.R.; SV Fort +6, Ref +9, Will +9, Rec +6; Rep +19; Str 8, Dex 14, Con 12, Int 14, Wis 10, Cha 27.
Background: Criminal
Occupation: Hero Academy Graduate: Perks 4+3 power stunts (Ghost in the Machine, Inside Out, Lighter than Air, Professional Reputation, Security Systems, Spirit, Urban Stealth)
Hobby: Unarmed
Skills: Acrobatics 18 (+20), Crime 18 (+20), Influence 18 (+26), Leadership 18 (+26), Legal 18 (+20), Perception 18 (+18), Power Control 18 (+19), Read/Write Language (French, German, Italian, Japanese), Speak Language (French, German, Italian, Japanese), Stealth 4 (+6), Streetwise 18 (+18), Unarmed 4 (+3)
Feats: Desolidification, Endorsement Deal, Fascinate, Mind Control, Power Level x10, Redirect, Superhuman Charisma, Teamwork (Mutant High students), Teamwork (U.S.H.E.R.)
Access/Contacts/Followers: Top Secret Access, Supply Contact: Wealth 41- can provide military equipment (U.S.H.E.R.), 5 points favors
Wealth: 32
Possessions: Sap, Taser

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Giant Bomb adds two new members

Well I suspected something like this might be going on but now it's official. Giant Bomb has added Brad Shoemaker and Vinny Caravella, both former gamespot employees, to its staff.

Way to go and congrats to those guys!

Check out the podcast announcement here.

Mike Lafferty supersleuths Supers20 power levels!

Since Mike basically guessed this one, it seems like a good thing to spill for today.

The Supers20 Power levels (which are guidelines not rules set in stone) are:

Gritty (Beginning Level 1, Beginning Max Power Level 1, Max Power Level 5)

Street Level (Beginning Level 5, Beginning Max Power Level 5, Max Power Level 10)

Four Color (Beginning Level 10, Beginning Max Power Level 10, Max Power Level 20)

Cosmic (Beginning Level 15, Beginning Max Power Level 15, Max Power Level 20)

I'm still wrestling with the idea of going beyond level 20 for Cosmic campaigns. It makes sense, which isn't to be confused with me wanting to deal with it.

Still, I probably will in the end, since I tend to think of Superman as being at least about level 25.

Monday, June 02, 2008

Scientists discover the secret to Geddy Lee's Bass sound!

Not a hoax! Not a dream! Straight from (work warning- music plays when the site loads) Geddy and a team of scientists have released this dramatic discovery to the world.

By request: Power Level and power

Mike asked about the Power Level feat folks have been seeing in the NPC write-ups.

Ask and you shall receive!

Actually, since the Power Level feat doesn't make a lot of sense on its own, I'm including a power as well.

First, here's a power.

Control Sound
You can mute or intensify sound.
Duration: Instantaneous
Range: 20 ft. times your power level
Effect: By letting loose a sonic scream you inflict 2d4 points + 1d4 points of sonic, non-lethal damage times your power level.

The target of this attack may make a Fortitude saving throw to reduce the damage by one-half (DC 15+ your power level).

The target of this attack must also make a Fortitude saving throw (DC 15+ your power level) or be deafened for 1-4 rounds.

Although you can use this power with multi-attack, you cannot attack the same target with this power more than once per round.

Cloak of Silence: You gain a bonus to Stealth checks equal to twice your power level. The duration of this stunt is 1 round times your power level and the range is you.
Earsplitter: Your sonic attacks can inflict lethal damage.
Resist Sonic Attacks: You gain a bonus to saving throws against sonic attacks equal to your power level. The duration of any successful deafening attack is reduced by one-half. The duration of this stunt is permanent and the range is you.
Sonic Immunity (requires Resist Sonic Attacks): You gain Damage Reduction against sonic attacks equal to twice your power level. The duration of this stunt is permanent and the range is you.
Vibration Wave: You inflict 1d6 points of damage times your power level to any inanimate object (including robots and vehicles but excluding cybernetic characters).

Now here's the Power Level feat.

Power Level
The strength of your powers is determined by the number of times you have taken this feat.
Effect: The effects of this feat vary depending on the individual powers you have selected. See the power descriptions below for the effects of this feat.

One effect of this feat that does not vary between individuals is that it grants access to the Power Control skill, which is added to your permanent class skill list upon selecting this feat.

Special: You may select this feat more than once. Its effects stack.

So in effect, the Power Level feat takes the place of the power points. The number of times you have selected Power Level acts as the power level for all your powers. If you want a power at higher than this baseline level, you can apply limitations to it, such as the Device limitation on all of Iron Man's powers except his Superhuman Intelligence.

For another example, you can also look at the Blast power that I posted earlier.

Using the aforementioned Iron Man sample NPC as an example, he has selected the Power Level feat 10 times. This means his power level, for purposes of the Blast power, is a base of 10 (+1 for the Device limitation), meaning he inflicts 11d4 damage.

His power level feats also power all of his other powers as well. So his Superhuman Intelligence power grants him +10 Intelligence for a power level of 10, his Flight operates at power level 11 (because it has the Device limitation) and so forth.

This one little feat is really the lynchpin of the entire design. It removes power points, and it removes the need for a PC's origin to function like a race or as a balancing factor. Since there isn't any extra layer of complexity added (the power points), the super PC is using the same resources as all other PCs, he's just using them differently.

Sunday, June 01, 2008

The Countdown Killer

The Countdown Killer (Speedfreak 5): HD 5d8+10; HP 40; Init +4; Spd 30 ft; Defense 19, flatfooted 19 (+4 Dex, +5 Class); BAB +3; Atk +5 melee (1d8+5, claws), or +7 ranged (2d4+4, Beretta 92F); SQ Melee Master; AL none; SV Fort +5, Ref +8, Will +2, Rec +3; Rep +2; Str 14, Dex 18, Con 14, Int 10, Wis 12, Cha 8.
Background: Criminal
Occupation: Thug: Perks
Hobby: Weapons
Skills: Acrobatics 8 (+12), Athletics 8 (+10), Crime 4 (+4), Perception 4 (+5), Power Control 8 (+10), Stealth 8 (+12), Unarmed 8 (+10), Weapons 4 (+6)
Feats: Ability Enhancement (Strength), Armor, Claws, Improved Duration (Ability Enhancement-Strength), Power Level x3, Superhuman Dexterity
Access/Contacts/Followers: Supply Contact Wealth 12 (a former fence of Squint’s who will provide what little he can out of fear for his life)
Wealth: 4
Possessions: Beretta 92F, 4 clips ammunition
Character Disadvantages: Obsession: kill once every 13 days (DSR 5)

Those of you who have Blood and Vigilance might recognize the Countdown Killer from the campaign models in that book. Here he is as a gritty, super-powered criminal designed as a terrifying challenge for a party of 1st to 2nd level supers.

Saturday, May 31, 2008


Deadpool (Speedfreak 15): HD 15d8+90; HP 180; Init +7; Spd 30 ft; Defense 34, flatfooted 25 (+7 Dex, +2 Cha, +15 Class); BAB +11; Atk +16 melee (2d6+5, unarmed), or +18 ranged (2d6+3, MAC 10); SQ Need for Speed; AL none; SV Fort +13, Ref +16, Will +8, Rec +11; Rep +7; Str 20, Dex 25, Con 22, Int 10, Wis 8, Cha 14.
Background: Military
Occupation: Special Operator: Perks 2+3 power stunts (Burst Fire, Called Shot, Blinking, Port Storm, Psi-Screen)
Hobby: Unarmed
Skills: Acrobatics 16 (+23), Firearms 14 (+21), Perception 4 (+3), Power Control 18 (+24), Stealth 18 (+25), Unarmed 14 (+19), Weapons 4 (+9)
Feats: Regeneration, Superhuman Strength, Superhuman Dexterity, Superhuman Constitution, Teleportation, Mind Shield, Combat Martial Arts, Banter, Defensive Roll, Elusive Target, Power Level x8
Access/Contacts/Followers: 7 points favors
Wealth: 13
Possessions: 2 Ingram Mac-10, 2 Katana
Character Disadvantages: Insane (DSR 5)

Friday, May 30, 2008

Sweet Christmas! Luke Cage

Luke Cage (Tank 15): HD 18d12+144; HP 288; Init +2; Spd 30 ft; Defense 23, flatfooted 23 (+2 Dex, +11 Class); BAB +11; Atk +18 melee (2d8+7, unarmed), or +13 ranged (by weapon); SQ Resilience; AL Jessica Jones, Danny Rand, New Avengers; SV Fort +17, Ref +9, Will +4, Rec +17; Rep +7; Str 24, Dex 14, Con 26, Int 10, Wis 8, Cha 13.
Background: Criminal
Occupation: Vigilante: Perks 2+2 power stunts (Power Punch, Inspire Ferocity)
Hobby: Leadership
Skills: Influence 4 (+5/+20), Leadership 18 (+19), Perception 18 (+17), Power Control 12 (+20), Streetwise 18 (+17), Unarmed 18 (+25)
Feats: Armor, Diesel 1, Diesel 2, Diesel 3, Intimidating Presence, Power Level x10, Superhuman Constitution, Superhuman Strength, Teamwork (New Avengers)
Access/Contacts/Followers: 7 points favors
Wealth: 13
Possessions: VariesCharacter Disadvantages: Dependent (DSR 5): Jessica Jones

Comics Culture

Something I've been noticing lately is the extent to which comics are infiltrating the "mainstream".

I put mainstream in quotes because, of course, the cool kids always knew comics were mainstream, but let's not hold it against the late arrivers on the bandwagon shall we?

Here's a few examples of what I mean:

1. That's so Raven: This is a saturday morning live-action kids show that my neice watches, about a girl who can see the future. Of course, she uses this power to help her friends avoid fights with their boyfriends, but I foresee a future where she stops Martin Sheen from becoming president and plunging the world into war with a high-powered rifle.

2. Hannah Montanna: This is an example of just how far into the culture comics have come. This is a really crappy kids show about a really crappy pop star, with a twist: She has a secret identity.

She has a sidekick too. And all the kids torment her at school, even though they idolize the pop star that they don't know she is.

It's basically spider-man without the super-powers.

3. Dexter: Dexter is a police forensics expert by day, serial killing vigilante by night. And the twist is, he only kills people who deserve it, namely murderers who beat the rap.

He's one white-skull-emblazoned t-shirt from being the Punisher.

When I first saw Buffy a few years ago, I was literally amazed that what I was watching was basically spider-man. She had the great power, the great responsibility, the sidekicks, the DNPCs, and the witty banter in the midst of ass-kicking.

Now when I see a show taking the tropes of the comics and using them in other media right under the noses of people who'd never DREAM of reading a comic, I don't even blink.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

YAHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH! Ok- what else can I put here for Banshee anyway?

Banshee (Speedfreak 15): HD 15d8+30; HP 120; Init +4; Spd 30 ft (Fly 200 ft); Defense 29, flatfooted 25 (+4 Dex, +15 Class); BAB +11; Atk +11 melee (2d8+0, unarmed), or +15 ranged (10d4+0, sonic blast); SQ Need for speed; AL Moira MacTaggert, X-men; SV Fort +9, Ref +13, Will +6, Rec +7; Rep +11; Str 10, Dex 18, Con 14, Int 12, Wis 13, Cha 8.
Background: Military
Occupation: Hero Academy Graduate: Perks 2+3 power stunts (Earsplitter, Professional Reputation, Resist Sonic Attacks, Sonic Immunity, Vibration Wave)
Hobby: Perception 4
Skills: Athletics 8 (+8), Crime 18 (+19), Firearms 14 (+18), Perception 4 (+5), Power Control 18 (+20), Stealth 18 (+22), Streetwise 8 (+9), Unarmed 18 (+18)
Feats: Attack Focus (Control Sound), Combat Martial Arts, Control Sound, Defensive Attack, Esprit de Corps (X-Men), Flight, Power Immunity (control sound- this also applies to the powers of Black Tom), Power Level x10, Teamwork (X-men)
Access/Contacts/Followers: Top Secret Access, 9 points favors
Wealth: 13
Possessions: Varies
Character Disadvantages: Dependent (DSR 3): Moira MacTaggert

You will believe a man can fly

Superman (Powerhouse 20): HD 20d10+220; HP 360; Init +9; Spd 30 ft (280 ft. flight); Defense 34, flatfooted 25 (+9 Dex, +15 Class); BAB +20; Atk +28 melee (2d12+8, unarmed), or +20 ranged (14d4+0, energy blast); SQ Melee Master; AL People of Earth, Lois Lane, Justice League; SV Fort +23, Ref +15, Will +7, Rec +20; Rep +18; Str 27, Dex 28, Con 32, Int 10, Wis 12, Cha 10.
Background: Blue Collar
Occupation: Reporter: Perks 2+4 power stunts (Autofire Blast, Darkvision, Enhanced Hearing, Professional Reputation x2, X-Ray Vision)
Hobby: Streetwise
Skills: Athletics 23 (+31), Leadership 12 (+12), Perception 23 (+52), Power Control 23 (+34), Streetwise 4 (+5), Unarmed 23 (+31)
Feats: Armor, Blast (Energy), Enhanced Senses, Flight, Force Field, Life Support, Power Level x14, Superhuman Constitution, Superhuman Dexterity, Superhuman Strength
Access/Contacts/Followers: Complete Access, 13 points favors
Wealth: 16
Possessions: Varies.
Character Disadvantages: Allergic Reaction: Kryptonite (DSR 5), Unique Disability: Kryptonite (reduces power level to 0).

In actuality, I'd probably make Superman higher level than this, but I decided to see just how "super" he could be at level 20. Turns out pretty freaking super.

Tony Stark: a cool exec with a heart of steel

Iron Man (Star 10/Brainiac 10): HD 20d8+60; HP 180; Init +2; Spd 30 ft; Defense 34, flatfooted 24 (+8 Int, +2 Dex, +14 Class); BAB +12; Atk +12/+17 melee (2d6+0/+5, unarmed), or +14 ranged (11d4+0, energy blast); SQ Friends in high places; AL SHIELD, the Avengers, Stark Industries employees and clients; SV Fort +9, Ref +12, Will +13, Rec +9; Rep +19; Str 10 (21), Dex 14, Con 16, Int 26, Wis 8, Cha 14.
Background: Dilettante
Occupation: Hero Academy Graduate: Perks 4+4 power stunts (Area Effect Blast: 1 hex, Electrical Engineering, Gadgeteer, Gadget Guru, Government Sponsored Team, Mechanical Engineering, Professional Reputation, Tech Wizard)
Hobby: Unarmed 4
Skills: Academics (economics) 16 (+24), Academics (metallurgy) 16 (+24), Academics (physical sciences) 13 (+21), Acrobatics 13 (+15), Chemistry 16 (+24), Computers 16 (+24), Engineering 16 (+24), Firearms 23 (+25), Influence 18 (+20/+24 w/ women), Leadership 23 (+25), Legal 23 (+31), Perception 23 (+22), Power Control 23 (+26), Read/Write Language (French, Italian, Japanese, Russian and Spanish), Speak Language (French, Italian, Japanese, Russian and Spanish), Unarmed 12 (+12/+17), Vehicles 16 (+18), Weapons 12 (+12/+17)
Feats: Attractive, Blast- Energy (Worn Device PL +1), Endorsement Deal, Exploit Weakness, Flight (Worn Device PL +1), Force Field (Worn Device PL +1), Gadgetry, Life Support (Worn Device PL +1), Power Level x10, Smart Defense, Superhuman Intelligence, Superhuman Strength (Worn Device PL +1), Teamwork (Avengers), Voice of Command
Access/Contacts/Followers: Complete Access, Followers: 3x 3rd level (SHIELD personal bodyguard), Skill Contact: James Rhodes (Vehicles 22 ranks)
Wealth: 42
Possessions: Varies by situation.
Character Disadvantages: Enemy- Skrulls (DSR 5)

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Supers20: taking requests

So we are nearing the point where I will be able to show Supers20 through NPCs.

Does anyone have any classic marvel characters they'd like to see to get a feel for how the system will look?

That 70's Book

This is sort of spurred by Mike's question below about my favorite issue of the Avengers.

Though I am a huge fan of older comics, devouring as much Lee/Kirby as I can get my hands on, when I talk about comics, in general, you can probably count on the fact that what I'm thinking of in my head and my heart are the years 1979-1981.

These are the years when comics really exploded on my life and twisted me forever in some really great ways.

For those not in the know, this period featured:

The Hellfire Club/Dark Phoenix saga in the X-men.

The debut of Kitty Pryde, maybe the single best comic character introduced in all of the 1980's.

David Micheline's run on Iron Man, featuring "Demon in a Bottle". But this whole run is the best Iron Man era BY FAR, where Iron Man had a real James Bond feel and James Rhodes, along with a ton of alternate armors were introduced.

David Micheline's run on the Avengers, especially the #181 issue drawn by John Byrne in which Henry Gyrich turns into the best grade-A asshole in comics since J Jonah Jameson, limiting their membership and even FORCING them to include Falcon as a "token".

The debut of the New Mutants pretty much ends this "golden time" for me, around 1983.

Maybe comics really changed, maybe I was getting a little too old (15 in 1983) to really be wowed by comics.


So as I work on Supers20, I've been working my through a complete run of Iron Man and a complete run of the Avengers.

The other day, it occurred to me that I think of this reading as "research".

Man, what a phoney-baloney job I have.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Friday, May 23, 2008

RPGObjects Podcast #5

Head on over to the official site where we talk about Iron Man, Supers20, the new RPGObjects website, Modern20, a Darwin's World novel, and more!

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Sample Power: Blast

Blast (one energy type)
You can release a damaging attack at range
Duration: Instantaneous
Range: 20 ft. times your power level
Effect: You inflict 1d4 points per power level on your target. Characters struck by this power may save for one-half damage. If you attack a target with your blast multiple times, only roll one saving throw and apply the results against all attacks that round.

There are three types of damage that can be inflicted by a blast: energy, physical or psychic. You must choose one type of damage when this power is selected.

In addition to deciding what sorts of defenses will protect against your blast, the energy type you select determines the saving throw used to resist the aura’s damage as follows: energy (Reflex), physical (Fortitude) or psychic (Will).

Blast attacks are not fine-tuned enough to effect a specific part of the body, meaning you cannot make called shots and do not have to roll for hit location when making a blast attack.
Accurate: Your blast power is fine-tuned enough to make called shots against specific hit locations (though you still do not roll a random hit location- you can just attack a specific part of a target if you desire). This functions as the Called Shot perk found in the Modern20 core rules, except the Power Control skill is used in place of the Firearms skill.
Area Effect: Your blast power can cover a wide area and affects all characters in a single square if you desire (you may still attack a specific target if you desire).

If you take this stunt a second time your blast can affect all characters in 10-foot radius (friend and foe) or you can attack a specific character.

You may take this stunt as many times as desired, adding 10 feet to the radius affected each time.
Autofire: You may attack with your blast 5 times per round regardless of your level. This functions as the Burst Fire perk found in the Modern20 core rules, except the Power Control skill is used in place of the Firearms skill.
Power Specific Limitations
Scattershot (PL +1 or higher): You must have Area Effect stunt to take this limitation. You cannot choose to attack a single target with your blast, only an area. If you take the Area Effect stunt once (meaning your blast affects an entire square) the power level of your blast is increased by +1. This bonus increases for each additional time you take the Area Effect stunt (meaning the wider area your blast affects the greater the limitation bonus).

This should give folks an idea where we're heading design wise.

To be clear, power level is determined by your Power Level feats. How many times you take this feat determines your overall power level.

So if you had taken the Power Level feat three times, the power level of all your powers would be 3.

Individual powers might have a higher power level through limitations.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Modern Dispatch 119

All right, so Modern Dispatch 119, Modern Supplement #1 is out!

This is a selection of alternate rules for Modern20 covering such topics as hit locations and eliminating class skills, along with a new perk, some new FX skills and 4 new occupations.

Pick up this handy Modern20 edition here.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Supers vs. "normals": Does it matter?

So I've talked a bit about this before, but it came up again with my players last night as we talked about our first Supers20 characters:

I am not doing anything to balance supers against normals in Supers20.

Ok, maybe nothing is a strong word. Supers will be spending all the same resources as normals, for different things.

There are no power points added into the mix in Supers20.

Your powers are, well, powered, by the Power Level feat.

The powers themselves? Feats.

You also will find ranks in the Power Control skill (posted earlier) handy, and power stunts are now perks.

To illustrate this with a comics example, Superman is spending all his feats, a good chunk of his skill points, and all his perks on his powers.

Batman is a very high level Modern20 character, already a pretty frightening and cinematic type, who might have a few "invisible" powers, such as Superhuman Dexterity, as well as some tech-based abilities, but basically, he's a modern20 character.

And the game gives him no special merit badge-style bennie for eschewing the flashy shit like Time Control or Flight or Energy Blast.

When my players got that "he's gone over the deep end again" look they give each other, my first question made them think I was REALLY nuts:

Does it matter?

Batman couldn't take Superman in the comics (he couldn't, FUCK YOU Frank Miller, your little kryptonite-powered battlesuit was the dumbest fucking story ever).

And he couldn't take him in Modern20.

People LOVE Batman in the comics.

Why do they need "power parity" in Modern20? Will not being able to have a 50% chance to beat up a fellow player matter?

In my mind, it shouldn't.

The skills guy (like Batman), should be just as valuable to a group in different ways. We're playing the Justice League, not a solo book.

And again, I'm not sure it's a problem anyway.

If you were to make a 300 point skill-based character in Hero, he would not be able to take out a 300 point min-maxed power blaster.

Of course, I also removed some of the artificial limitations Blood and Vigilance imposed on normals. They had artificial caps on ability scores supers didn't.

In short, Supers20 handles the question of origin and balance the same way Hero does. Your origin is pure backstory, totally in the hands of the GM and player. Your powers are your business. Anything goes within the rules.

By contrast, Blood and Vigilance took a more Marvel Superheroes approach, with origin affecting your character like race in D&D.

So for right now, I'm tentatively ok with leaving things as they are.

Powers might be flashy, but they're a choice, a niche.

Skills are also a niche.

Supers20: a little taste

Power Control
This skill represents training in the use of your superhuman abilities. This training is not necessarily formal. Patrolling the streets and teaching thugs about justice will do.

This skill appears on no class skill list. It is only available to those who select the Power Level feat (see new feats below).

Push: In times of stress, you can call on reserves of energy to push your powers to greater heights. On a skill check of 15 or higher, your powers operate at a higher power level for one minute. If this skill check fails, you are fatigued until you have 1 hour of rest.

Pushing affects all your powers, causing them to operate as if you had more Power Level feats than you actually do. The bonus to your power level is determined by your ranks in the Power Control skill, as shown in the table below.

Alternately, you can push your power level by double the amount on the table below, for a single round.

At the end of this time (10 rounds or 1 round) you are fatigued until you have 1 hour of rest (no combat, movement at greater than one-half speed, investigating or other taxing activities can be undertaken during this time).

If you are fatigued, you may still use this skill to push your powers, but the skill check DC is 20. Failing this skill check causes you to become exhausted. If you successfully use this skill to push your powers, you are exhausted when the duration ends (either 10 rounds or 1 round).

You cannot use this skill use if you are exhausted.

Stunt (requires perk): Skilled power users can get more out of their powers than unskilled users. Most of the power feats below have stunts listed in their descriptions. Each time a character selects this perk, he can select one stunt for a power feat he possesses.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

D.N.A. The RPGDesign quick and dirty review

The Skinny: If you like puzzle games, you should check out DNA for a new take on a classic genre.

The Spice: DNA has three modes, an action mode which is timed, throws all sorts of nasty obstacles your way and even has something of a story to bring it altogether. If you want a twitchy, fast reflexes tetris-like puzzle experience, this is for you.

Puzzle mode has you attempting to remove all the pieces from the board and is a strategy game more than anything.

Eternal mode is extremely mellow and just lets you play (this is the mode that has sucked so much of my time since discovering this game).

Taste Check: DNA has something for every puzzle fan. If you like Bejeweled, Zuma or Tetris you should definitely give it a look.

Chuck's Score: 8/10

Chuck's Reasons: Eternal mode is a great way to pass some time while listening to a podcast. Alternately, with the music on, it's a trippy mellow experience while I try to figure out what hit locations a half suit of armor should protect.

Find out more: Including a free demo, at the game's official site.

Almost Done

So the Hit Location dispatch issue has turned into a Modern20 miscellany issue, though still with more information on hit location than anything else.

It has a new perk, rules for grappling and hit location, cover and hit location and armor and hit location, along with the two new skills that have appeared in other products.

My idea is that every so often (maybe every year?) these rules miscellanies will get folded into Modern20 proper.

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Titan Quest: The RPGDesign quick and dirty review

The Skinny: If you are in the mood of a Diablo clone set in the ancient world, this game is for you.

The Spice: If fighting medusa on the steps of the Acropolis, exploring the Great Pyramid of Giza for lost relics, or fighting giant preying Mantis in the Hanging Gardens of Babylon sounds fun to you, this is definitely the game for you.

Taste Check: If you've ever used the words "dungeon ecology" in a sentence and were serious about it, this might not be the game for you.

Chuck's Score: 9/10

Chuck's Reasons: I love Diablo.

I almost had a romantic feeling toward this game when I realized I was going to get to fight the minotaur in the labyrinth of King Minos.

I think "dungeon ecology" is the single most stupid fucking concept any evil perverted scumbag ever introduced into the gaming vocabulary.

Platforms: PC

Availability: Amazon, Gamestop (physical), Direct2Drive and Steam (digital- both highly recommended)

Rules Light

I've noticed a trend among folks when they first look at Modern20: there's confusion in the majority of people I've shown the game to for comment because they expect the game to be "rules light".

This is especially true once they see that skills have been somewhat simplified. I say somewhat, because I'm not really sure they have been. The total number of skills is less, but skills are much more dense, and skills do more things, especially in combat, than they do in traditional d20.

Ah yes, combat. This is when it truly dawns on everyone that Modern20 is not in fact rules light. Usually folks assume this is a mistake on my part, and my friends have helpfully suggested that I need to rework the game at times, since I clearly want the game to be rules light and it's clearly not.

Here's the thing: Modern20 was never ever ever ever intended, at any point, to be rules light.

I fucking hate rules light games. I like classes. I like hit points. I like character creation to border on a mini-game. I like taking a session for the players to make their characters.

But the questions that nag me about this are: A) why does everyone assume I wanted to make a rules light game and B) is rules light what people want?

My answer to A) is that most variant d20 systems aspire to be what d20 is most definitely not, and that's rules light. You could certainly make the case that one of the most popular d20 variants, True 20, is rules light in many ways.

My answer to B) is no. The most popular d20 variants on the market are some of the densest: Star Wars, d20 Modern, M&M and Spycraft 2.0 are very, very dense games.

And I don't think this is an accident. I happen to think most people like dense rules sets. I think it's something deep in the dark heart of gamers that makes them likes games.

We like to master things. I know how the Sphere Grid in Final Fantasy X works, know how to use it to make awesome characters, and that makes me feel superior.

I know, I just violated the code. We're not supposed to admit this shit.

And by the way, though it kind of has a rep for being rules light, because it has only three classes and no HP, True 20 isn't rules light either. How many feats are in that book? And action points? And Virtues and Vices? There is lots and lots of crunch there.

Saturday, May 03, 2008

Marvel Digital Comics Blows Up

So I'm a subscriber to Marvel Digital Comics, I've advocated it in the past.

Since its launch, they've rocked steady, adding 5 comics a day, monday through friday, like clockwork.

Until this week, when they added 500 comics in one day.


What's Next (various news bits)

Just because I've been somewhat quiet here (though I have continued the RPGObjects podcast) doesn't mean plans haven't been being laid.

Now that things are moving again on the RPGO front, here's some various small news bits:

1. Next up from me, relatively quickly, will be a Modern20 issue of the Modern Dispatch. Hit locations have really changed the way my home group games, and new wrinkles to modern20 combat have been in use here at Chez Rice for awhile now.

In particular, grappling and cover have been changed much more dramatically by the addition of hit locations to the game.

This dispatch will bring these rules to the rest of you. Now, instead of a grapple assuming that you've grabbed your target around the middle, a grab to the leg will have a different effect than a grab to the arm.

Also, instead of "partial cover: +4 defense", this upcoming article will let you know what hit locations are protected by cover. So kneeling behind the door of a car will protect some locations, while leaning around a corner to squeeze off a shot will protect different locations.

2. Up after that will be Supers20 and the official supers setting for Modern20: Dark Future.

These three projects should take up about the next 60 days or so (hopefully less- but that's the time I've budgeted).

After that, it's either space opera, or mechs.


Michael Stackpole: printed books are dying

After months of silence, Michael Stackpole has released a new Secrets podcast, in which he announces that publishing as we know it is going away.

Printed books will never go away entirely, but I concur with his opinion that things like Amazon's kindle are going to radically change the publishing industry, which it turns out, isn't run much like an industry at all.

Sounds fairly similar to RPGs actually.

Deadline: Dead

All right, the deadline has been slain.

Providing the crunch for a 175 page book, that is non-d20 which means you're writing most of that crunch from ground zero.

Turns out that's hard to do in 60 days.

Who knew?

Still, it was a great opportunity that I will be talking about more here in the coming weeks.

In the meantime, a lot of things went by the boards, such as updates to the Hellstrom Voyage, blogging, and any semblance of a life.

But, now that the beast is slain, expect things to return to a semblance of what we call normality around here.

Assuming anyone still reads this thing ;)

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Steampunk Musha Pre-order

My latest book, written for Empty Room Studios, is the d20 version of the Steampunk Musha Player's Guide.

This book is now available for pre-orders!

More information can be found here.

Again, for all you Legends of the Samurai fans, this is something you especially won't want to miss, as the book is fully compatible with that line.

So if you want to give a Steampunk/Anime/Fantasy twist on LoS, this book will have a ton of new crunch to help you out.


Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Steampunk Musha Player's Guide free Preview

At the Empty Room Studios store, you can download a free preview of my upcoming d20 adaptation of Steampunk Musha, a game where oriental uh, adventures and steampunk anime get blended into the world's most delicious stew.

The book has non-human races, rules for clockwork creatures (including PCs), rules for steampunk prosthetics, new core classes and new spells.

And for you Legends of the Samurai fans out there, this book is completely compatible with Legends of the Samurai.

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Things to do when you're really bored (and drunk)

Pay 40 bucks for a public records search on yourself, find every place you've ever lived where your name was on the lease, then look at those addresses with google maps, including street views.

I think this would be stalking.

But I did it to myself.

Friday, April 04, 2008

Modern20 gets another review!

Fist Full of Comics (and games) has just posted a review of Modern20. Check it out!

My impressions: The reviewer definitely seemed to "grok" the game overall. Streamlined in some areas, going for a non-fantasy feel to d20, but definitely not rules lite.

One comment, on the reviewer's reaction to the way combat and damage works in Modern20.

The reviewer seems to think that hit locations will make combat a bit more difficult. It depends on what game you've been running.

If it's d20 Modern in a non-FX world, then yes, it will be less complex, because that combat is basically "roll attack, roll damage" occasionally roll a Massive Damage Save. Wash. Rinse. Repeat.

If you come to Modern20 after playing mid-level D&D, I contend that you would NOT be rolling more dice. Dice fly in mid-level D&D. Skill checks, saving throws, iterative attacks, etc etc etc.

I wanted something that could be that complex, without feeling like fantasy.

Whether that's good or bad, of course, is up to the individual. The reviewer seemed to like it, so cool!

On damage, the reviewer seemed to think characters died a little too slowly. This isn't my impression, especially with all the people getting capped with headshots in Modern20.

However, if you go unconscious, I *do* think it should take awhile to die.

I wanted a situation where a character (let's be real here, usually a PC) could be "left for dead".

In standard D&D, you're either fine (1 hp or above), or bleeding out, and in need of IMMEDIATE medical attention (in 60 seconds or less) or you bleed out and die.

I wanted something closer to the first episode of Hill Street Blues, where the two cops get shot in the first episode and lay there on a cold floor, unable to move, but alive, for HOURS before they're discovered.

It happens in the real world. Heck, it happens in Conan novels and on Hill Street Blues.

So again, in a world without access to immediate healing, I thought it made sense. And I actually think it's a touch more realistic than "once you start dying, you die in 60 seconds without medical care".

I have to say, I'm very pleased with this review. It's perfect. It gives a nice overview of the game, gives the reviewer's take on the game, both pro and con, and even gave me some things to think about.


Thanks guys!

Night Ride Part 1

Night Ride Part 1 “Look, Pa, it’s my turn. Also, Nana is having one of her spells again and she has no idea who I am when she gets this w...