Dynasty Zero

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Searchers of the Unknown


As regular readers of my irregular posts know, I prefer rules-lite games.  Barbarians of Lemuria, B/X D&D and Mini Six just to name a few.  And with a strange obsession I continue to seek them out.  If they are free, all the better.  As a result, I've had a copy of the free Searchers of the Unknown by Nicolas Dessaux on my hard-drive for literally years now.  I glanced at it when I first got it and dismissed it as too light.  There seemed to be nothing there.  Well, sometimes I wonder about myself.  The other day I printed out a copy (all 1 page of it) after seeing it mentioned in the course of searching various forums and websites for an OSR/retroclone game that was low or no magic.  I decided to look at it again because it supposedly only had an adventurer class, no magic users or clerics.

I now think SotU borders on the superb.  The premise is that if the monsters in an old-school game only need one line for stats so do player characters.  And it works if you are looking for a light-weight, quick-playing D&D type game!  You can pick up any adventure or module, make a character in literally moments and be playing moments later.  The touch I like the best is that the to-hit roll is roll under armor class.  Descending armor class finally makes sense to me.

So, if you like rules-lite, quick playing D&D derivatives, take a look at Searchers of the Unknown.  And if you find that it is too lite or that you want magic using classes you can pick up Searchers of the Unknown Expanded free from Lulu.  SotU has also been hacked to other genres.  Here is a website full of them.  To top it off there is a compilation of every known version of SotU up to 2012 located here.  Enjoy!

Sunday, May 22, 2016

Rod Taylor of The Time Machine

An episode of The Big Bang Theory prompted me to show the 1960 classic The Time Machine with my youngest son yesterday.  He found the morlocks suitably creepy.  I was much younger when I saw and the morlocks kind of freaked me out.  However, I noticed something for the first time.  This is Rod Taylor, the actor who played George in the movie.

Perhaps he was secretly the father of Robin Williams?

You be the judge.

Sunday, May 15, 2016

White Star Settings

White Star has been pretty well supported in the setting department.  The main rule book supports a quasi-Star Wars setting from the get-go.  There is Five Year Mission and the Space Cede adventure covering Star Trek.  Stark Space has dystopian/cyber-punk SF covered.  Galaxy War 1939 and Have Death Ray, Will Travel addresses the pulp/Flash Gordan needs.  These items scratch many of my science fiction itches.

It turns out Star Wars is the type of setting my son would like to play in.  When we were discussing options he said that he wanted to play a bounty hunter and capture "rebel scum".  Cool.  Got that covered.  I'm working on my own Star Wars rip-off homage that is set in the fallen Commonwealth of Worlds.  (People don't understand why Terrans laugh when others refer to it as CoW.  Although I haven't quite decided whether Terrans will be part of the mix or not.)  It is now ruled by the High Archon and is called the Archonate.  I'm working up a timeline for the setting which I will present in another post.  Suffice it to say that it will contain all of the Star Wars cliches.

http://i.kinja-img.com/gawker-media/image/upload/m3it2ywzteicfojkcyni.jpgAs much as I like Star Wars and the default assumptions behind White Star, my mind immediately jumped to two literary settings upon my first read through of the rules (and more recently a third and then a fourth.).  The first was Battlestar Galactica.  More the new series than the old.  I didn't know it until a while later but BG has gotten a little love, too.  There is a little adventure called Colonial Civil War that is similar to BG.  It's not exactly the same and it is a single adventure but it is there for those who want to dip their toes in.  I would like to see a full blown treatment of BG though.  It would be really fun to be part of a "ragtag fleet" of humans trying to survive a robot onslaught and have tailored rules to do so.  The players could encounter the planet of the week or explore a single planet with an eye towards colonization.  Also, following the second series, the player may need deal with android infiltrators that are indistinguishable from humans.  However, those loving their star knights would have to look elsewhere to get their fix.  I haven't watched the entirety of the new series so I don't know if they slipped any psionic elements into it.

The second setting I flashed on doesn't contain star knights, either.  It is the Terro-Human Future History stories by H. Beam Piper.  Specifically Space Viking.  Raiding and trading and re-civilizing would be a blast.  The mercenary, pilot and aristocrat classes would all be perfect for this setting.

SPACE VIKING; A great new novel by H. Beam Piper
I think this encapsulates a Space Viking raid perfectly.
However, there are few aliens to encounter in this universe, let alone be player characters.  Piper's aliens definitely take a back seat to humans.  Even Little Fuzzy was about how humans reacted to the Fuzzies and their potential sapience.  Also, there are no personal lasers or star sword type weapons either.  Combat tech is limited to 20th century type weapons.  The starships would have to be much larger, also.  The Nemesis, Lucas Trask's ship, is a globe 2000 feet in diameter.  That's big.  The largest aircraft carrier that the United States has is 1,092 feet long.  So take two aircraft carriers, stack them lengthwise and turn them into a globe and there you have it, a SV ship.  Heck, the world's largest oil tanker was only 1,500 feet long.  I can't remember if the book mentions the size of the crew complement but I imagine it is quite large so that would have to be adjusted accordingly.  Once again, a World War II battleship carried around 3,000 officers and crew.  I use a battleship as comparison because SV does not mention specifically an air or fighter wing.  Contragravity assault vehicles for the troops are mentioned but I didn't get the impression that it was along the of an air wing.  Robots were well developed and were used as servants amongst other duties.  However, I don't recall a sentient robot in any of Piper's stories let alone SV.

I think one of the advantages of this setting would be the sheer number of human inhabited worlds to explore.  Each would have a different level of technology and civilization.  One session could be occupied dealing with stone throwing primitives and the next could be spent doing desperate battle with a rival spaceship of comparable tech.  It could include exploring the ruins strewn about various planets as well as domain management if you take over a low tech world.  I would imagine that this, like other settings, would be SV with the serial numbers artfully removed.  This could lead to an infinite variety of worlds and situations.  Also, if you want to have a slightly different setup you could remove the Euro-centric nature of the Sword Worlds and substitute a Japanese, Chinese or some other model.  (I like the way it is so this wouldn't be one of my choices but, hey, it's there.)  And the political situation of the Sword Worlds could be modified to taste also.  The book does mention the first Space Viking-on-Space Viking world raid.

So, these are just some thoughts.  I would like to say I am going to create the Space Viking knockoff but I doubt that would ever happen.  Something about doing the actual works always seems to get in the way.  Sigh.  Oh, and by the way, Space Viking is available for free at Project Gutenberg.  You can download it here

Oh, the other two settings you ask?  Niven and Pournelle's The Mote in God's Eye universe (which includes the CoDominium books and King David's Spaceship) and Lois McMaster Bujold's Vorkosigan saga.

Friday, April 8, 2016


We saw Batman v Superman today.  I really enjoyed it as did my boys.  The references and similarities to The Dark Knight Returns made me enjoy it even more.  Oh, and spoiler, I really enjoyed seeing Batman kick Superman's ass.

Wednesday, April 6, 2016


I had to chuckle.  I've been reading the Five Year Mission supplement for White Star.  This book allows the GM to modify their campaign to emulate Star Trek.  One of the new classes included is Expendables.  Oh, those poor, poor red shirts.  The thing that made me laugh is that one of the class abilities is Noble Sacrifice.  If the expendable is within full  movement distance from a character they can throw themselves in front of that character and absorb any damage dealt.  But the Expendable takes double damage.  Fortunately, the player controls multiple Expendables and has a large supply in reserve.

Long Live the Expendable!  Oops.  Long Live the Next Expendable!

Friday, March 25, 2016

The Future and the Past

I've bought two PDFs over the past several weeks.

The Future:

White Star: White Box Science Fiction Roleplaying

Yep, I did it.  Seeing Star Wars: The Force Awakens got me in the mood for some good old fashioned SF roleplaying.  Never mind the fact that I own WEG Star Wars (1st and 2nd edition as well as a pdf copy of REUP), Traveller, BASH! Sci Fi Edition, Thousand Suns, Tales of the Space Princess, Stars Without Number, Rogue Space, Cosmic Patrol, HardNova 2 and Star Ace.  Plus more generic games such as D6 Space and Mini Six, amongst other, even more generic games.  Nope, I needed a new game and what do you know, DriveThru was having a gm's day sale.  I've given it a read-thru and I like what I see.  It is definitely old-school with its class based, Vancian magic d20 system.  However it is open and flexible in that way that I like.  The classes have been tweaked to fit SF.  Various SF sub-genres are covered briefly with suggestions on how to modify it to better fit each sub-genre, including what classes to leave out.  It appeals to me in the same way the B/X does.  Simple, yet with many possibilities.

The Past:

Blood & Bronze

Oh, I was excited about this one.  An RPG set in a fantasy bronze age version of Mesopotamia.  So, cool! I have been thinking about getting Valley of the Pharaohs but haven't pulled the trigger yet.  And I thought this would be cooler.  Well, I'm disappointed.  The book has evocative art but let me down in other ways.  First, the way the material was presented seemed a illogical and confusing to me.  Concepts were referred to but not explained until later and then sometimes not very clearly.  The system itself seems ok.  It relies on d6s, count successes, for combat and skill checks and a d20 for saving throws.  It also has a simple skill system with each skilled based on one of the six attributes, which go no higher than 12 for most characters.  It has a setting section that was interesting but seemed really sparse to me.  And no included adventures.  Overall, where White Star sparked my imagination, Blood & Bronze just let my sit there listlessly.  Which is a shame for an ancient history guy like me because I was so looking forward to a pseudo-historical game tailored specifically for the Bronze Age.

Sunday, March 6, 2016

A Belated Thank You

I have been very remiss.  In January I received a package in the mail that contained a copy of the outstanding  Creature Compendium by +Richard LeBlanc, published by New Big Dragon Games.  You see, I had entered a Christmas drawing at Richard's blog Save Vs. Dragon.  And because I never win anything, I had completely forgotten about it.  Well, Richard contacted me to make sure I knew that I had won.  I was pretty excited.  A few weeks later, I had the book in my hands.  And it is a pretty cool book.  It contains a large variety of new and strange creatures for your old school campaigns.  The best part is that he included stats for both Oe/1e and my preferred BX.

So, thank you Richard.  Though I am late I much appreciate the prize.