Dynasty Zero

Monday, August 15, 2016

Viking White Box Question

So, as some of you may know, I want to turn Swords & Wizardry White Box into what I've been calling my Viking Hack.  I'm taking the White Box rules and adding classes and ideas from various sources around the web, cutting things out and planning own "original" setting.  Throw in a handful of cliches, stir well, and voila!  Fun is had by all.  I'm doing this for private, not commercial, use and may post it for any of you who might be interested.  I've also considered tearing apart The Black Hack and doing the same thing.

But what if I surprise myself and actually finish the thing and it turns out to be decent?  What if I want to put it on DriveThru, even if it is just PWYW?  How does one do that?  Can someone explain to me in very simplistic terms how to do this?  Or, perhaps, point me in the direction of a website that can do the same?  What can I use from the rules set?  What can't I?  What items must be attributed?  What is OGL and Open Game Content and what does it all mean?   I know there are various games based on White Box such as White Star, The Hero's Journey (both by Spaaaaahhn!) and the upcoming WWII: Operation White Box by Pete Spahn.  (What?!?  Another Spahn!  Hurm....)  How does one go about this?

Any help would be appreciated.

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

I Blame James Spahn

White Star CoverI blame +James Spahn.  James Spahn and his nifty little game White Star.  It's all his fault.  See, I picked up White Star in March.  I read through it and really liked it.  It did science fiction in the simple way that I have grown to appreciate as I've grown older.  Yeah, it has classes and levels and such but I'm ok with that.  I like that it has ascending armor class and the base hit bonus.  That makes the game even easier.  No need to look up numbers on a chart.  Unified savings throw with bonuses under certain circumstances?  Nice.  And it is easy to play around with and to modify it.  For example, White Star has a very Star Wars vibe built right into it.  Star Wars not your thing?  That's cool.  Various supplements can steer you in a different direction.  Like Star Trek?  Pick up Five Year Mission and you are off and running with, dare I say it, years of gaming goodness.  How about pulp sci-fi based in the Solar System?  Have Death Ray, Will Travel is your supplement.

Great.  Cool game.  Flexible.  No problem.

http://3.bp.blogspot.com/-_KT24qT-Q0g/U9SHpEVsxII/AAAAAAAACfE/YwslcePbYBE/w1200-h630-p-nu/Swords%2B%26%2BWizardry%2BWhitebox.pngSo time passes and I decide to take a look at the game White Star is based on, Swords & Wizardry White Box rules.  I looked it over and thought it was neat how James modified the base rules and turned them into a science fiction game.  What a flexible set of rules!  Now here's where the problem starts.  You see, I have gamer ADD.  A serious case.  I was just looking at my order history for DriveThru.  I have placed 597 orders since 2008.  I kid you not.  Granted, the vast majority of the items I've acquired are freebies but I've still dropped a goodly amount of cash there.  Way too much if you ask my wife.  And that doesn't count the smaller number of games from LULU or the free ones I've grabbed from the internet.

So what's the problem?  White Box is made to be modified and tinkered with.  So now I want to modify and tinker with it.  You see, I was happy with B/X supplemented by Labyrinth Lord material.  A nice simple game that covered my D&D needs without any fuss or muss or extra complexity. I had been essentially ignoring Swords & Wizardry because I didn't need it.  B/X had me covered.  But then I started thinking about running a Viking campaign.  Well, Savage Worlds can do that easily.  But what if I wanted to use a D&D type game?  B/X could do it with a bunch of modifications.  Then I ran across a site that had already modified both Labyrinth Lord and Swords & Wizardry for Vikings.  You can find both at the Sword +1 blog in the links section to the right the page.  This and White Star made me realize just what a superb toolbox White Box is.

Now all I want to do is tear it down and rebuild it to meet my own vision and specifications.  Vikings?  I want subtle, low level magic that is out of the hands of the average PC.   Perhaps illusion based stuff.  So, in goes the npc Illusionist class.  I need to research magic in Norse culture more but I further modify things if I want to.  Demi-human PCs?  Nope.  Gone.  Elves and dwarves are things of legend and characters will be lucky to see them once or twice in their life.  Mike at Sword +1 has Berserker, Warrior and Thane classes.  I want a Skald class too.  Like a Bard but with no magic.  The music will work like a charm spell.  I'm sure I can find that somewhere or make my own.  And so on.

Now, I could take Barbarians of Lemuria and remove or tweak a few careers and change the setting.  Easy peasy.  Or I could put in a bit more work and use Savage Worlds.  No, not me.  I essentially want to make my own neo/retroclone based on White Box.  A project that if I get started I surely will not finish.  A project that will suck up what little free time I have.  A project that will probably leave me frustrated in the end.  And half way through I'll have another idea and want to work on THAT one.

So,  I blame James Spahn.  He showed me what was possible with Swords & Wizardry White Box and now my life is going to be very complicated..

So, imagine me standing on a rocky outcropping high above the land, raising my fist to the the heavens and shouting:  "SPAAAAAAAAHN!!!!"

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

BoL Hack

I finally picked up BoL Hack today.  I've only briefly perused it because I was at work.  (No, I'm never bored at work.  I always have something to do.  Seriously.  Hey, why are you laughing?)  What I saw was pretty cool.  It looks like a nifty fusion of the two system that keeps the simplicity of both systems while adding a twist to both.  And it's just as hackable as both original systems.  I'm hoping this will help solve the problem I have with D&D magic, too.

Friday, July 22, 2016

Vikings on my Mind

Crap.  I'm doing it again.  I can never focus long enough on one campaign idea to get any meaningful work done on it.  A couple of months ago it was White Star.  I actually got a little further on my idea than I usually do.  I drafted a five page background to my own setting.  Trust me, that's a lot for me.  But we never got passed making up characters because video games distract the boys and my attention wandered as it does.  I think it's a version of gamer ADD.

Anyway, I am currently mulling two campaign ideas.  The one that is foremost in my mind is a Viking themed campaign.  But as always I have a couple of problems.  The first is the historian in me.  I don't know much about Scandinavian history and society.  Much of my knowledge is through popular media, predominantly History Channel's The Vikings.  I want to research and research and research the snot out of it.  And this is one of the ways I end up losing interest.  But to help I'm going to try and get a hold of some gaming supplements on the topic like GURPS Vikings and the 2nd Ed. AD&D guide.  Hopefully that will be enough without being too much.

This leads me to my second problem.  What system to use?  I'm looking at three:  Savage Worlds, B/X (or S&W Whitebox) or Barbarians of Lemuria.  My oldest son would prefer Savage Worlds so I'm leaning in that direction but the other two are calling to me too.

What I'm looking at is a low magic setting with fantastic, myth inspired elements.  What magic there is will not be in the hands of the pc's unless it is an artifact.  And those will be rare.  There will be seers that can foretell the future in there veiled way.  There will be npc magic users but I want it to be consistent with the sagas and myths.  And that's another thing I'll need to learn about.  Urg.  So much to learn.  Oh, and every now and again a god might meddle.

So, anyway, each system has its advantages though I'm sure all could do it well.

Savage Worlds is flexible and action oriented and has a lot of official and unofficial support.  I got a peek at the campaign material a Savage Worlds gamer created for his personal game and it really helped solidify my thoughts.  I don't think I could pull off his game off but I am definitely going to borrow from it.

B/X was what I initially thought I would use.  I love the simplicity of it and it is easy to modify.  I figured I would borrow liberally from the Viking Campaign sourcebook from the AD&D 2nd Edition.  It would be easy to find B/X or Labyrinth Lord versions of the suggested classes.  I would have to figure out a way to mellow the magic because I have a feeling it wouldn't be what I would want.  Lately, I've become fascinated with Swords & Wizardry Whitebox and it has a bunch of home-brew classes out there and is easily modifiable.  I've found a couple of fan made supplements that will be very helpful.  One of which is at Sword +1.  If you poke around the site a little you can find a Swords & Wizardry version too.  I also found some related posts at the Magician's Manse.

Last but definitely not least is Barbarians of Lemuria.  I feel it would be very simple to modify it to suit my needs by fine-tuning the career list.

I am going to start the campaign by characters returning home to the cold north after hearing of the death of their father.  One will be a member of the Varangian guard in Miklagard and the other will one of Hrolf Ganger's men in what will become Normandy.  They return home to find that there father was murdered and the rest of the family was also slaughtered or sold into slavery.  This will give us several lines of play including revenge, the quest to find their kin and, of course, there will be various and sundry monsters ravaging the countryside and perhaps a few meddling fey.

So, this was a big word dump but any thoughts or comments are appreciated.

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.