Tuesday, 31 January 2017

Hit Points in Stars without Number

As I mentioned earlier I am not a fan of the Hit points increasing with level in Stars without Number. Levels and hit point increases bother me in every game system other than rules designed for Fantasy role-playing games.  Likely, because the Fantasy level concept has been part of my gaming from the beginning. And the adversaries in Fantasy games increase in level and it does not seem odd.  Although I can still remember having players more bored than challenged when confronted with dozens of orcs when they were at 8th level in AD&D.

With only one read through the rules for Stars without number I am probably only seeing the big picture and not the details.  So I have to be careful before House ruling static hit points because it is a cornerstone rule and could really disrupt things.  Aside from the obvious like adversaries, the increasing hit points would also be designed to counter more powerful weapons.

Online I have seen a few suggestions. Like have Experts/Psychics use 5HD and Warriors 6HD.  All adversaries encountered would be similarly increased.  Another idea was to make hit points equal CON and add only 1 or 2 more hit points per level increase.  A warrior might then hope to have a CON of 14 and by level 5 he could have 19 hit points or even 25 if I went with +2. This idea has some appeal.  I think the adversaries could likely stay as written in the rules. The increase in HP would not be overpowering.

To test out how this Combat might look I have the following scenario.  Our intrepid hero Duke is wandering the alleys of the port city of Harwel looking for a shop that sells cheap body armor.  He makes a wrong turn and ends up in a dead end.  Turning around he finds the alley entrance is blocked a leather clad street punk named Billy.  Billy is pointing a primitive rifle at Duke, “Give me all your money, spacer!”

Duke (our hero)
Level 1 Warrior HP 4 STR +1, INT 0, WIS 0 DEX +1, CON 9, CHA 12
Leather Jack (AC6) Knife 1d4, WAB 1 Mag Pistol 2d6+2 (100/300) WAB 1
PS 12, MS 15, ES 14, TS 16, LS 13

Billy (street punk)
Hit Dice 1 (HP8) Attack bonus +1 Dmg 1d10 (rifle), AC 7, Skill bonus +2, Saving throw 15+, Move 30', ML 9

Round 1
Initiative: 5+1 for Duke, Billy rolls 4
Duke shoots first. Rolls a 9 +7+0+1+1=18 a near miss. Billy ducks out of the way and shoots back rolling a 15 +6+0+0+1=22 a hit. Damage roll of only 1.  Duke is grazed and his HP drops to 3!

Round 2
Duke concentrates and shoots again and rolls 14 +7+0+1+1=23. A hit. Damage roll of 11!
Billy is shot in the chest and collapses dead.

Duke quickly walks out of the alley and gets out of the neighborhood.

Now a few years later Duke again finds himself on Harwel.  Out to stretch his legs after a month in space.  Again he is confronted in an alley.  This time by Tommy a similar street punk.

But Duke has been adventuring and has reached level 5 he rolls 5d8 for hitpoints and likely has about 27. Also he might have woven body armour (AC4) from his adventuring profits. He has spent skill points on Projectile weapons and is at level 2.  So he attacks at +6 (+1 DEX, +2 Skill level, AB +3).

Initiative: 4 for Duke, 6 for Tommy.
Round 1
Tommy shoots and rolls a 16 +4+0+0+1 = 21 at hit. His Damage roll is 7. Duke's HP goes from 27-7=20.  I minor wound.

Now Duke shoots, rolls 10 +7+2+1+3 = 23. A hit. Damage roll of 13! The street punk is dead and other local gangsters hear the news and give Duke a wide berth.

So it still seems okay.  Duke is still at threat from the street punk who is still level 1.  Assuming I have done this correctly.  So it might not be as big a problem as I thought.

If I adopted the CON based hit points idea, then at 5th level Duke would have only 14 hit points.  That also looks like it might work.  I think this might be more noticeable at high levels.  Levels like 8 where the hit points are 8d8 and likely giving hit points in the 40s.  Meanwhile if I based it on CON he would still only have 17 hit points at level 8.

There are some really powerful weapons in Stars without number that would pose problems for a CON based hit point rule. The spike thrower does 3d8 damage and even the Mag Pistol (which is not expensive) does 2d6+2 damage.  You can see in the above example that Duke did 11 and 13 damage.  If Duke was hit by a weapon like this it would be 1 or 2 shots to kill him.

Monday, 30 January 2017

City Map of Barnacus

City Maps

Dragon Magazine 80 Barnacus City in Peril
I liked the Dragon Magazine #80 (December 1983) adventure "Barnacus City in Peril" (AD&D 1-5) and always planned to work it into a campaign.  When I finally started working with that idea I wanted to change the map to something more like the city maps in the Harn products.

So I created the below map in Paint if I recall back in the mid-90’s. It never did get worked into the campaign.  But, when my players in an AD&D 2nd Edition campaign made a sudden left turn to go to Gradsul (it was a Greyhawk campaign) I needed a quick map.

Barnacus Map by author 1994

So the Barnacus I had drawn earlier was rotated on its side and re-drawn to fit the new campaign and Greyhawk.

I kept the island and the river but I added in a lot of building outside the walls of the town as befits a city in a reasonably safe part of Greyhawk (Kingdom of Keoland).  I have no idea if there is a canon Gradsul map published somewhere but this version worked for me.

I needed the cemetery near the walls, the wizard’s tower (Istan the fabulous) and the Blackmire swamp to fit into an adventure that I planned to spring on the players since they had sidetracked the campaign to the city.  It never did get used because they met with Istan and then took off in another new direction.

Gradsul Map by author 1999

Sunday, 29 January 2017

Stars without Number campaign

I have been thinking of running a space opera style science fiction game.  I have a lot of options to choose from for rules. The first that sprang to mind was “Stars without Number” (Sine Nomine 2010). I have had it for a while.  Since it is a quiet weekend I browsed through the rules today.

Here are my scribbled notes...

The time stamp is 3200 AD. Humanity is scattered.
In the past psychics were employed to operate instantaneous stargate.
In 2665 (565 years ago or 20+ generations) the Scream occurred, a psychic pulse that killed all psychics. Jump gates became inoperable, travel was only possible by old spike drive ships.
The dark ages that followed were known as the Silence.

Character Creation (7-24 18pp)

Step 1: Roll up the six attributes using 3d6.  You can move points between scores, lowering those above 13 and raising those below 8. No modifications can raise a high score below 13 or a low score above 8.
STR - physical might. Good for melee combat.
INT - memory and logic, technical skills.
WIS - perception, willpower and judgement. Aware of your surroundings.
DEX - hand-eye coordination, agility, reaction speed.
CON - stamina, ability to withstand pain.
CHA - charm, leadership.

Step 2: Choose a class.
Warrior - primes are STR or DEX. Special ability is Uncanny Luck, once per fight automatically evade an attack that would have hit.
Expert - primes are INT or CHA. Special ability is Like a Charm, re-roll a failed skill check once per hour.
Psychic - primes are WIS or CON. Special ability is psionic powers.
You can replace one of your Primes with a score of 14.
Classes have unique Attack bonus and Saving throw tables.

Step 3: Choose a background and training package.
Background packages grant skills. Skills measure from 0 to 5. They are gained at level 0. Next pick a training package for your class. Training packages also grant skills. They also are gained at level 0.  If a skill appears in both background and training packages you increase it to level 1.

Step 4: Choose a Homeworld.
Use the Hydra sector for a homeworld.  Note that psychics must have gone to an Academy at some point in their past.

Step 5: Roll Hit points.
Psychics d4, Experts d6, Warriors d8.
If a character is reduced to zero hit points they are dying.

Step 6: Choose languages.
You speak Pan-Galactic, your world’s native language if different, and one more language per INT modifier.

Step 7: Buy Equipment.
Spend 400 plus 1d6*100 credits on Tech 4 or lower equipment.

Step 8: Psychic class chooses disciplines.
Primary discipline begins at level 1, 1 more point to spend on another discipline. Initial psi power points are equal to 1 plus the highest attribute modifier of either WIS or CHA.

When a character attempts something difficult a Skill Check is called. Skill checks involve the relevant skill and the most relevant attribute modifier.
To make a skill check, the player rolls 2d6 and adds his characters relevant skill level and attribute modifier. If the total equals or exceeds the check’s difficulty number, the check is a success.

Difficulty Number
<6 are routine and not worth rolling.
6-7 are easy difficulty.
8-9 are average difficulty.
>10 are challenging feats.

Psionics (25-32 7pp)
Powers are divided into disciplines each of which has nine level. They must be learned in order.
Psi powers can be used at any time during a character’s turn but only once per turn. Using a psi power counts as the character’s action for the turn. Automatic powers do not count against these limits.

Using psi powers cost psi points. Psychics gains more psi points each level. All expended psi points are regained in 24 hours providing the character has 8 hours of rest. There is a psi point cost table.

A psychic can choose to Master a power permanently decreasing their psi points. The advantage is that thereafter the power has zero activation cost.

If a psychic is out of psi points he can draw on their neural reserves in a technique called torching. It causes permanent damage to the psychic but can power any level of discipline. This can lead to “feral” psychics.

Generally a psychic must see his target.

Types of Psi disciplines
Biopsionics - healing powers.  They cause System Strain in the target. Maximum system strain is is the unaugmented CON score.
Metapsionics - affects other psi powers.
Precognition - forecasting.
Telekinesis - manipulate matter.
Telepathy - mind reading.
Teleportation - travel

Equipment (33-58 25pp)
Encumbrance - character can have a ready number of things equal to half their strength score rounded down. Character may also have a number of stowed items equal to their strength score.

Armor - completely unarmored humans are Armor class of 9.
Primitive Weapons - muscle powered.
Projectile weapons
Energy weapons
Psitech weaponery - only can be wielded by psychics.

Lifestyle costs - cost of leaving for campaign time.

Spike drives use a fusion plant to bubble the ship up through ever-increasing dimensional frequencies where normal physics do not apply. The ship rides the energy created by a dimensional shear to fly faster than light.  Drilling out to higher dimensions is only possible at the rim of a solar system away from gravitational pull. Within systems a starship can still use the spike drive to phase out but not completely.

The Star Trader Antelope

Systems (59-70 11pp)
Skills - roll 2d6, add skill level and attribute modifier. If the total equals or exceed the check’s difficulty number it is a success.

If you lack even level 0 in the relevant skill than you are at -1.
Awkward circumstances might add a -1 to the roll.
Favourable circumstances might add a +1 or even +2 to the roll.

Opposed Skill checks
Both characters make skill checks. The largest result wins. Ties are re-rolled if a tie result does not make sense.

Extended Skill checks
A single check might not sufficiently represent the task. In this case several skill checks might be needed.

Combat is divided into rounds of about 6 seconds each. During each round every character gets a turn. During a character’s turn he may both act and move up to 20 meters. A character can give up their action to move an additional 20 meters.

Every participant rolls 1d8 and adds their DEX modifier. Initiative is rolled once per combat. Characters can delay actions. In ties, the character goes first.

Roll d20 and adds the relevant combat skill, the attribute associated with the weapon, target armor class and the attack bonus for class and level. If the total is equal to or greater than 20, the attack hits successfully. A natural 1 fails, a natural 20 hits.

The target’s DEX modifier is subtracted from their base armor class.

If an attack hits the character rolls damage dice associated with the weapon. You do not add ability bonus to damage.

Characters can move freely around enemies with ranged weapons but if a character has engaged an enemy with a melee weapon his opponent gets a free attack without spending an action if he tries to move away (exception is fighting retreat).

Saving Throws
Made by rolling d20 on the class table. Some situations may give a choice of saving throw to use.

Vacuum Exposure first round does not damage. Each round after does 1d20 points of damage.
Falling does 1d6 damage for every 3 meters fallen.
Radiation exposure requires a Physical Effect save. On success there is no lasting damage. On a failure no immediate damage is noted. But the next day the character will lose 1 point of CON and suffer radiation poisoning.  Most severe radiation exposure requires 1 save per day but more lethal exposure require more saves.
Suffocation, characters can go without air for 4+CON minutes. Once they are beyond their limit they must make a Physical effect save or pass out.
Xenoallergies are caused by alien microorganisms. Most alien microbes are harmless but some cause allergic reactions.
Disease and Poisons are measured by Toxicity rating, an Interval at which they harm the character and a virulence indicating the number of saving throws needed to recover from the effects.

Natural healing is number of hit points equal to character level per day provided they get 8 hours of rest. If he spends the entire day resting it is 2 hit points per level.  He can also gain an additional 2 more for every level of Tech/Medical possessed by an attending physician.

Character advancement
GMs award experience for accomplishing story goals. Once a character earns enough experience to gain a level he immediately gains the benefits of the new level (hit points, skill points, psi powers).

Gaining Hit points
Re-roll hit points at the new level.  The total cannot be lower than the previous total.

Gaining Skill points
Gain skill points as per class. Skills need to be trained by an appropriate trainer.

Gaining Psi Disciplines
Psychics going up in level may add 1 to their primary psi discipline and 1 point to any other discipline. They also gain additional Psi power points of their class table.

Starship Travel
Transit time is divided by the ship’s spike drive rating.  A drive-1 ship would travel at base time, a drive-2 ship would travel at half the time.

Navigators can “trim the course” but it comes with dangers.

Travel in a system requires Navigation-0 skill and usually no checks. Making a jump to another system requires at least Navigation-1 sill and a successful Navigation/INT skill check against difficulty 7. A spike drive cannot drill more hexes in a single jump than the rating of the drive. A failed check results in a roll on the Failed Navigation table.

Detecting other ships
Detecting another ship depends on distance and the other ships profile.

The History of Space (71-77 7pp)
Game Master Guide (78-86 8pp)
World Generation (87-112 26pp)
Factions (113-127 13pp)
Adventure Creation (128-137 10pp)
Alien Creation (138-147 10pp)
Xenobestiary (148-157 10pp)
Designer Notes (158-163 5pp)
Hydra Sector (164-179 15pp)
Game Master Resources (180-199 20pp)

Evaluation at First Glance

I have not taken a hard look at the rules yet.  Some rules sections I just skimmed and did not take notes. It seems like a curious mix of Traveller and D&D.  I almost feel the ascending hit points with level is a show-stopper.  For modern/future games I prefer that the characters begin close to maximum vitality.  I cannot work my head around why a more experienced character can suddenly shrug off blaster hits.  I realize that hit points are supposed to represent fatigue, ability, stamina etc. but it just feels weird.

Also I think it might be a problem that the rules really assume human characters.  It is possible to play aliens but the rules are not really ready for that and few examples are in the base rules (basically 2 playable alien races).  I think my players might not like the lack of options.

I do really like the setting concept. It makes the system useable for all sorts of campaigns and I see that there are published rules for a variety of options.  Campaigns like military, mercenary, spaceship combat, cyberpunk,  star trader and espionage.

There are extensive rules for developing star sectors, worlds and adventure campaigns and a lot of online resources, character sheets and the like.

Saturday, 28 January 2017

Runequest Classic notes

I had a quiet day today so I took the time to read through the Runequest Classic rules from end to end.  It is not exactly what I was expecting since I only ever players RQ3 and read recent editions.


STR - affects damage, armor worn, and the weapons that can used
CON - health, amount of damage character can take.
SIZ - mass of character. ability to do and absorb damage.
INT - modifier to ability to improve skills through experience
POW - ability to work magic.
DEX - how fast and accurate
CHA - measure of leadership. Helps obtain training cheaply
No characteristic can be increased above 21. No characteristic can voluntarily fall below 3.

  1. Attack - ability to strike foes, actually plays out like a bonus.
  2. Parry - adds and subtracts from parry skill
  3. Defense - the art of getting out of the way. Attackers subtract the defenders DEF from their attack ability. So if they have a 45% in broadsword it could become 40%. Defense increases if DEX or POW increase and DEF increases every time DEF saves him from an attack.
  4. Hit Points - obvious
  5. Damage Bonus - ability to do more damage.  It adds a die of damage to all damage rolls.
  6. Perception - ability to detect anomalies
  7. Stealth - ability to move quietly, hide in shadows, pick pockets
  8. Manipulation -  ability to work with small intricate things, Lockpicking, trap removal, and sleight of hand.
  9. Knowledge - book learning, mixing potions, speaking languages.

Increasing characteristics
Physical characteristics, STR, CON, DEX can be improved through hard training. Basically each is handled differently but it amounts to paying in cash for the training to get the increase.
There is a cost and time element to the training and the player must find the trainer.

Rough encumbrance rules, character can carry a finite number of objects. With objects being defined as something that can be easily carried in one hand. Objects that require two hands to carry them are considered two objects. The maximum he can carry is the STR stat. But he can only carry comfortably the number of things limited by the average of STR and CON.

Going over the maximum gives penalties, -1 to move class, -5% Defense, +1 to all Strike ranks.

Melee Round
  1. Statement of intent - this can be aborted.
  2. Movement of non engaged characters - move all movement allowance or if moving less than half of move allowance engage in melee
  3. Resolution of Melee, missile and spells - attack in strike rank order
  4. Bookkeeping

Melee resolution
Attacker rolls d100 to see if he succeeded an d20 for hit location. Remember to subtract opponent's DEF. If the defender chooses to parry, he rolls d100 to see if he succeeded. If the attacker succeeds and defender does not, defender takes damage. If the attacker and defender both succeed the weapon or shield of the defender is affected. If the attacker fails and the defender parries the attacker’s weapon takes damage. If both fail nothing happens.

Strike Rank
Based on SIZ, DEX and weapon length
No action can be taken whose SR is greater than 12
Characters cannot attack with magic and melee in the same round but could attack magically and defend normally

Critical hit
If the player rolls 5% or less of what he needs to successfully attack it is a critical hit. So if he has a 50% chance to hit with a weapon, a critical would be a roll of 1-2% (round down).

Critical hits ignore armor and other protections
A weapon or shield that parries a critical takes twice normal damage. If there is damage left over it passes through.

An adventurer using a weapon for which he has only 5-20% chance of success has a 5% chance of fumbling. For every additional 20% capability an adventurer has the chance of fumbling is reduced by 1%.

An attacker has a 20% greater chance of hitting an opponent who is on the ground, immobilized, or otherwise unaware of him (or running away).

Can be purchased from guilds
The lesser skills are for sale. Beginning adventurers can gain credit. This must be paid off before more training occurs in the future.
This credit can be in actual coin so that he can buy equipment rather than skills

Beginning characters can be trained up to 25%. Or if their natural skill already puts them over 25% they can go to 30% at normal training cost
If the character begins at a negative skill value that minus must be trained away.
CHA over 12 brings a bonus to the cost of paying for training.

Learning by experience
After each melee round character should keep track of whether he managed to land a blow or parried. It does not matter if the attack did damage or was parried.
It can only be recorded once for each weapon or skill. At the end of the scenario after a week’s rest he can roll to improve the skill.

A character can only increase a combat skill of any kind by 5% training and 5% experience.

Weapon characteristics
character cannot pick up a weapon in melee even if trained in it and use to full effectiveness immediately. It is a ½ effectiveness.

Weapon Damage
Weapons absorb damage when used for parrying a successful attack or are parried successfully.

Shooting at moving targets is done at ½ effectiveness

Defense - natural defense skill.  If it prevents you from being hit and can be improved. It is based on Dex and Pow.  Increases only after each adventure.

Thrown weapons use half normal damage bonus.

Armor absorbs damage and the remaining damage goes through to the body part

Two types of magic Battle and Spirit.

Battle Magic is powered by sacrificing POW.
Bladesharp 4 costs 4 POW.  The characters POW is reduced by 4.
To buy bladesharp 3 you must first buy BS1 and BS2.

Spell limits. can only keep the POW points in spells in your head at one time equal to your INT.
All battle magic spells except 2 are passive. These two active spells must be maintained with concentration.

Spell Focus
Some spells require a focus to be cast successively.
Any spell can be cast without a focus but it takes longer.
Spells affecting other people and objects require a focus.

Spirit Magic
Successfully winning spirit combat mens the spirit can be bound. The binder is in constant contact and can use the spirit’s INT for spell storage and the POW to power spells.
Binding the spirit to an animal creates a spy for the binder up to 5 km
Limit to number of bound spirits is CHA divided by 3.

Other skills
Like the fighting skills the base use chance for other skills is 5%
Skills can be improved through use or trained by purchasing the training
Bonuses from natural ability are not added to skills with a basic chance of 0% until the first 5% if training is bought.

So what is my verdict on the rules?
They are problably not my preferred version of RQ, but I am willing to give them a try.  I am interested to see how they work. I still have issues with Cults and you can see they are not parts of my notes because I skipped through them pretty quick. I am not sure they are really necessary for a short campaign but they are problaby needed for long campaigns.