Friday, May 27, 2011

Jeff Conaway Made Me A Better Gamer

For those who haven't heard, actor Jeff Conaway has died at the age of 60. Most folks remember him for his roles in Grease, Taxi, and Babylon 5. However, it was another role -- one that many folks may have forgotten -- that actually shaped my early gaming life.

Let's jump in The Way Back Machine to 1983. I was a junior in high school and I had discovered AD&D the year before. I had a regular group that I was playing with every weekend. Most of the time, we played the way most youths did -- we looted, pillaged, and generally ran amok in every town we rode into. Our alignments were inevitably Neutral, Chaotic Neutral, or Neutral with Evil Tendencies. Our player characters were, in a word, "dicks." But that was the wonderfully chaotic nature of our games. It was about how much discord we could sow (and how pissed we could make the DM).

Anyway, there wasn't much entertainment at the time that reflected a medieval fantasy bent. Oh, I read a lot of fantasy novels and caught The Beastmaster, Deathstalker, and Arnie's Conan film at the theater, but it was all a lot of shiny swords wielded by pec-baring behemoths. The kind of trope we were emulating in our games. But in February 1983, a new TV show aired that kinda put a new spin on the genre for me. The show was Wizards and Warriors. It starred Jeff Conaway as Prince Erik Greystone, an earnest, honest, white knight paladin of a character who saw things in absolutes. The show itself was to the fantasy genre as Get Smart was to the spy genre. Every one seemed to be "in" on the joke -- except for Prince Erik. Conaway played him as the absolute straight man, shouting platitudes and cliches as he entered battle with the likes of the villainous Dirk Blackpool and the corrupt Wizard Vector.

I loved the show. It was a weekly AD&D mini-movie to me.

Wizards and Warriors ran only 8 one-hour-long episodes before being canceled, but I was glued to the set each week. And Conaway's role as Prince Greystone struck a chord in me. At the next game, I said I wanted to play a paladin. "Lawful Good," I said. All eyes turned to me as if I was breaking some unwritten code of the table. "OK, I'll play a Neutral Good cleric," one of the other players said. So, when we started, we had all Good (or "Mostly Good") characters. We spent that day helping the oppressed, defending the downtrodden, vanquishing evil, and we were lauded as heroes. And we loved it. We played Good characters since that day.

So, it may seem a bit cheesy, but -- in a way -- Jeff Conaway's role in this obscure piece of television helped shape us as gamers. Rather than continuing to bask in lawlessness and chaos, our party became the heroes we aspire to be in these games. We rose to fight the good fight rather than sinking to muddy depths. In a way, I think we became better people in real life through the actions of our characters as well.

I have a full set of this TV show on DVD that I bring out on occasion and watch, remembering those heroic days of youth when we, as a group, decided to become heroes. And Jeff Conaway's role on this little-remembered TV show was the catalyst for that transformation. Thanks Jeff.

Here's the opening sequence from the show:

And for more information on Wizards and Warriors, visit Wizards and and read up on this great, forgotten, and oh-so-RPG-friendly TV show.

Friday, May 20, 2011

The Savage AfterWorld's Customizable "Do-It-Yourself-You-Cheap-Bastard" Gamemaster's Screen

I have wanted a customizable gamemaster's screen for quite some time, but I never could justify the expense of the purchase. (I'm a notoriously cheap bastard.) But with Gen Con looming on the horizon, I needed one GM screen that I could take that would function for the various games I plan to run. A quick scan of the Internet really didn't give me any ideas on how to make one from scratch. So I came up with one of my own. And because it was very cheap to make and is a bit more sturdy than a cobbled-together cardboard one, I thought I'd share the step-by-step construction process with everyone for their own use. And here we go:

The Savage AfterWorld's Customizable "Do-It-Yourself-You-Cheap-Bastard" Gamemaster's Screen Construction Instructions
You will need: two 3-ring binders with clear pocket front covers (try to find those with the 3-ring mechanism attached to the spine rather than attached to the back cover); three page protector sleeves; 8-1/2 x 11 cardstock; colored duct tape that matches the binder color; spray adhesive; utility knife or scissors. Total cost of materials -- under $12.
Step 1: Cut the covers off of the binders. Cut along the seams, taking care not to "break" the seal into the interior cover backing or separating the front pocket from the cover. Try to stay in the center of the seam. You will need three of these covers. (Although you could use the fourth if you want a really large screen.)
Step 2: If the covers have an interior slip pocket, carefully remove them, taking care not to "break" the seal as described in Step 1.
Step 3: Lay the covers end-to-end so the clear cover pockets are face down. (You're looking at the GM's side here.) Tape them together with the duct tape. The tape will act as a flexible "hinge."
Step 4: Here's where it gets a bit difficult. Turn the whole assembly over so the Player's side is up. You need to run a reinforcing line of tape along the "hinge" on the outside, but you want to take care not to tape over where the pockets are open. You'll need to gently lift the pocket open, then slip a short line of tape just under the pocket "lip" and onto the adjoining cover. This will reinforce the "hinge" on both sides of the screen.
Step 5: Inspect your handiwork thus far. You should have three covers joined end-to-end and reinforced both inside and out with a duct tape hinge. The Player's side should have three open and exposed clear cover pockets. OK, time to add some clear pockets to the GM's side.
Step 6: Cut the 3-ring holder tabs from the page protectors. Again, take care not to cut the seam that holds the edge of the protector together. You now have three clear sleeves.
Step 7: Insert the cardstock into the sleeves. This will make it easier to handle for the next steps. Spray one side of the sleeve with the spray adhesive. Glue the sleeve to one section of the GM's side of the screen. Do this with the other two. If you don't want to mess with spray adhesive, you can use a thin double-sided crafter's tape.
Step 8: Let the glue dry. Remove the cardstock from the sleeves.
Step 9: Your customizable "Do-It-Yourself-You-Cheap-Bastard" gamemaster's screen is finished. Print out any charts, tables, or artwork you may need on landscape-oriented 8-1/2 x 11 sheets of paper or cardstock. You have three sleeves for info on each side that you can slip out and in depending on the game you're running.
Step 10: Ta-da. I've found that the screen collapses down best when you fold it like the letter N, if that makes sense. Hope you get some use out of this. Please feel free to improve upon my patented "cheap bastard" design. And let me know how it turns out for you!

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Notorius NPC: Feldspar the Geologian

4th Level Geologian

STR: 19 --- INT: 15
DEX: 10 --- WIL: 14
CON: 17 --- CHA: 8
HPs: 91 --- AC: 4

Mutations: hyperburrowing; seismic tremor; pain insensitivity

Feldspar is one of the race of Geologians - mysterious but powerful stone humanoids that are rarely encountered in the Mutant Future. However, Feldspar has not only entered into society on his own, but he has apparently risen to a position of respectability in a small village community.

Feldspar is 7 feet tall and made mostly out of his namesake material. He is incredibly strong, giving him a +4 to hit bonus and +5 damage bonus due to his STR score. His right hand is coated with high concentration of feldspar, and he receives an additional +1 damage bonus when he strikes with his unarmed fist. Due to his mineral composition, his "skin" is AC4, making him resistant to most damage. However, it comes at a price as Feldspar also has pain insensitivity. He is unaware of any damage taken or injuries sustained in combat until the point of collapse or even death.

Feldspar's personality is like most Geologians: he is quiet, stoic, and does not discuss his past at all. One unique personality trait of Feldspar's is that he has developed a very black and white vision of right and wrong. It is this overdeveloped sense of justice that has brought Feldspar to the attention of the village of Little Rock and a degree of notoriety. A small caravan was heading toward the village when it was attacked by marauders. Feldspar -- who had wandered out of the hills and saw the attack -- used his mutation of hyperburrowing to move into position behind the attackers. Exploding out of the ground, he took half of the bandits by surprise, pummeling them where they stood. He then unleashed his seismic tremor ability, flattening the rest of the attackers.

Astounded at his power and thankful for his assistance, the caravan leader brought Feldspar into Little Rock where he was lauded as a hero and made marshal of the town. Feldspar appreciates the recognition and has grown accustomed to the role of "law giver" for the area. Over time, the villagers have come to view him as the de facto leader of the town, coming to him with any questions or problems concerning personal issues or matters regarding the town. The town's elected leaders have gradually relinquished their roles when it became obvious they were no longer approached for their advice and counsel.

When first encountered, the PCs may think that Feldspar is some kind of powerful behemoth keeping the town under his thumb. In actuality, Feldspar's leadership position is one he's earned over the years with fair and just decisions. The PCs may even be tasked by Feldspar to take care of matters in the town's interest.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Ancient Armory: Chainsaw Nunchucks

Weapon: Chainsaw Nunchucks
Damage: 7d6
Attacks: 1
Range: 10-foot radius
Weight: 20 lbs.
Battery: N/A - Uses gasoline fuel
Charges: Gas tanks depleted after 10 minutes of use

Chainsaw nunchucks is a weapon that combines the nimbleness and grace of a martial-arts-trained ninja with the savage brutality of a crazed lumberjack. It may not have the terror-inducing "WTF?!" effect of, say, the Rocket-Propelled Chainsaw, but if you encounter an NPC swinging a pair of these around, someone is guaranteed to lose a limb.

The design of a pair of chainsaw nunchucks is fairly simple -- a pair of standard lumber-cutting chainsaws joined together in the rear by a short length of chain. In the hands of a skilled user, the running chainsaws swirl and twist around the body of the attacker, creating a spinning vortex of limb-severing damage to all within 10 feet of the user. Contact with one of the saws will do 7d6 hit points of damage to the unlucky individual.

Using a pair of chainsaw nunchucks should only be attempted by the strongest and most dexterous of individuals. Due to the weight of the weapon and the fortitude required to keep it moving, only characters with STR and CON scores over 17 can attempt to wield it. Also, a character must have a minimum DEX score of 18 to even try to learn to use the device. Only the most nimble -- and foolhardy -- of PCs should attempt to teach themselves the art of "chainsaw nunchuckery." If they are driven to learn, the Mutant Lord is encouraged to roll for full damage with each failed DEX roll. If the PC is able to train long enough -- and if he hasn't lost an arm in the process -- the ML should go ahead and reward him with mastery of the weapon, making for some very interesting future combat encounters.

Monday, May 2, 2011

New Character Race: Geologian

Hit Dice: 1d8 per point of CON
Mutations: 1d3 Geologian, 1d2 mental

Geologians are a mysterious and seldom-encountered race of mineral-based creatures who seem to be constructed of living rock. Geologians are usually found in a roughly humanoid shape (two arms/legs, stands upright, etc.) although they are a bit taller, averaging 6-7 feet in height, as well as being much heavier than normal humanoids, nearing a half-ton for some specimens. Geologians may have some metallic isotopes and minerals within their structure, but not enough to be considered made of metal. Geologians gain +2 when rolling for both Strength and Constitution. Because of their rocky structure, Geologians roll 1d8 per point of Constitution for their hit point totals.

It is unknown how (or if) Geologians are actually "alive," as organic materials are not found in their chemical makeup. Some theorize that Geologians are comprised of some sort of silicon-based DNA, rather than the carbon-based life usually found in the Mutant Future. Others assume that Geologians are actually made up of billions of microscopic robotic nanites who have bound themselves to sand and stone and then to each other to form a colony-like sentient being. And others just shrug and don't bother asking such questions in a world of bizarre things such as spidergoats. Regardless, Geologians require air, food, and water just like any other living creature.

Geologians are usually encountered in large barren rock-strewn locations -- large blast craters, Ancient abandoned quarries, deep underground caverns, anyplace with massive amounts of exposed stone and little animal/plant life. Geologians do not seem to have a social structure or settlements, as each one encountered is alone and on its own. Geologians do not have parents and, if asked, will simply say that it has always been the way it is now for as long as it can recall. Many Geologians have no formal name, as they have no need for self-monikers due to their solitude. They will, however, give themselves a name for others to call them, usually using whatever stone makes up a majority of their composition. Names such as "Flint," "Granite," and Gypsum" have been encountered.

Geologians are never found wearing clothes (nothing to hide, really) and rarely wear armor, feeling that their own body structure is armor enough. However one drawback to its physical structure is that a Geologian cannot be healed through artificial means, as most normal healing supplies are for carbon-based creatures. (It is left to the Mutant Lord's discretion if he wishes to allow concrete or other stone-based compounds as a Geologian healing agent.)

A player bases his Geologian's physical make-up and structure based on Mohs Scale of Mineral Hardness. The scale runs from 1 to 10, with 1 being the softest naturally-found minerals such as talc and graphite, and 10 being boron and diamond. If desired, have the player roll 1d10. The result is his "hardness" as found on the scale. He can then determine a matching stone to describe his Geologian's primary mineral makeup. His starting AC will be found on a reverse sliding scale of Mohs 1 = AC 10; Mohs 2 = AC 9; through Mohs 10 = AC 1.

Geologian Mutations Table

Beneficial :

1-5. Geothermal Emissions - The PC's "blood" is actually molten magma. Due to this increased internal core temperature, the PC can generate a ray of heat every three rounds that does 4d6 hit points of damage to those within 50 feet.

6-9. Gigantism - Treat as per the Gigantism mutation on page 24 of the MF rulebook.

10-15. Diamond Hardness - The PC's rock-like outer surface is denser than typical stone giving the PC an additional -3 AC modifier.

16-19. Hyperburrowing - The PC can move through dirt and earth as easily as others swim through water. When hyperburrowing, the PC can move through the ground at one-third his above-ground movement rate. The mutation cannot be used for excavation purposes, as the ground closes up behind the hyperburrowing PC.

20-25. Fossilizing Touch - The PC can mineralize flesh and plant material with his touch. Unless the target makes a save versus death, his cellular structure will crystallize into stone, killing the target instantly. A successful save means the target takes 1d8 hit points of damage from the cellular disruption. Regardless of outcome, this attack drains the PC's fortitude, and he will be unable to attack again for 2d10 rounds.

26-29. Spiked Projectiles - The PC can fire off sharp, stony bits of himself as deadly projectiles. The distance is that of a dagger and each skike does 1d4 hit points of damage. A PC can throw 6 spikes a day and must "regenerate" fired spikes during a night's rest.

30-34. Environmental Immunity - The PC's metabolism does not require air to function. He can stay underground, underwater, or in an airless vacuum forever without harmful effects. The PC is also immune to airborne hazards such as poisons, parasites, and disease.

35-38. Seismic Tremor - A powerful localized earthquake occurs in a 50-foot radius from the PC's location. All standing within the area of effect must make a DEX check or topple to the ground, taking 1d4 hit points of damage. Fragile or unsafe structures could collapse in the area. If in a cave or cavern, a cave-in could occur. It is left to the Mutant Lord to determine the effect to surrounding structures and landmarks.

39-43. Lodestone - The PC's structure contains a strong magnetic field under his control. Using this field, he can attract and repel metallic objects with a maximum weight manipulated up to his normal carrying capacity. This ability has a range of 50 feet.

44-47. Increased Physical Attribute - One of the PC's physical attributes is increased. Roll 1d4 to
determine the specific effects: 1-3 = Increased Strength: The character receives an additional 1d10 points added to his STR score. 3-6 = Increased Constitution: The character receives an additional 1d10 points added to his CON score.

48-52. Light Refraction - Small flecks of crystallized materials coat the PC's outer surface, making him immune to all light- and laser-based attacks. If attacked, the Mutant Lord should roll to see if the reflected beam strikes another target or the attacker himself.

53-56. Ice/Fire Immunity - The PC is immune to all heat- and cold-based attacks. He is also able to withstand near absolute zero temperatures as well as heat up to 2,000 degrees Fahrenheit (just below the melting point of rock).

57-61. Fissure Sense - The PC is able to "sense" the naturally occurring stress points and weaknesses in any object. This gives the PC an additional 1d6 hit point damage bonus in combat. This ability extends to being able to detect and identify any mutational drawbacks an NPC has.

62-65. Radioactive Emissions - Radioactive isotopes make up part of the PC's internal structure. The PC can generate a ray of radiation every three rounds that does 4d6 hit points of damage to those within 50 feet.

66-70. Earth Mover - Up to 60 cubic feet of loose earth can be moved per turn a the will of the PC. Neither solid stone nor large boulders can be moved in this way, however.

71-74. Stone Wall - The PC can cause loose stones and gravel to rise from the earth, creating a wall in any form the PC desires, up to 1,000 cubic feet. The wall can only be called up from bare earth and not indoors. The wall cannot appear directly where another object orn character stands, and it must rest on a solid surface.

75-79. Mineral Dissolve - The PC can cause the molecular cohesion of rock and stone to dissolve with a touch. When it dissolves, it forms a grainy, gritty mud-like substance. Up to 1,000 square feet of rock can be destroyed in this manner.

80-83. Vibrational Sense - The PC can feel vibrations in the earth from up to 200 yards away. The PC can use this sense like a radar, "feeling" the approximate position of nearby characters and objects. This sense only works when the target is moving along the ground. Still objects cannot be "felt."


84-88. Mute - The PC is completely incapable of speech and can only communicate through panomine or writing (if the PC has learned how to write).

89-92. Slow Mutant - Treat as per the Slow Mutant drawback on page 28 of the MF rulebook.

93-96. Reduced Mental Attribute - One of the PC's mental attributes is decreased. Roll 1d4 to determine the specific effects: 1-3 = Decreased Intelligence: The character loses 1d6 points from his INT score. 3-6 = Decreased Willpower: The character loses 1d6 points from his WIL score.

97-00. Pain Insensitivity - Treat as per the Pain Insensitivity drawback on page 27 of the MF rulebook.

NOTE: I'd like to thank Justin S. Davis for his help in naming this new race!

Sunday, May 1, 2011

No Room At My Gen Con Tables

Wow. That was crazy-fast.

Event registration for Gen Con went live at noon today. As I mentioned earlier, I'm running two Mutant Future games at Gen Con this year. (The only two games apparently.) Well, I went to the Event Registration page once the page went live. And, within 6 minutes, my two Mutant Future games were filled. Five minutes later, the Ghostbusters and Toon games I'm running were also booked up. I kinda wish I had scheduled an extra round or two (especially the Mutant Future Thundarr game I forgot to schedule). But I think a pick-up game or two may surface, so keep your eyes peeled to this blog for future impromptu announcements.

Anyway, thanks for the interest, and I'll see everyone in August!

Savage Menagerie: Eater Bunny

No. Enc.: 1d6 (2d6)
Alignment: Chaotic
Movement: 240' (80')
Armor Class: 7
Hit Dice: 3
Attacks: 3 (claw, claw, bite)
Damage: 1d6, 1d6, 1d8
Save: L3
Morale: 8
Hoard Class: None

An offshoot of the fairly harmless Rabboxen (MF rulebook, page 91), Eater Bunnies are just as big, but far more vicious. They first appear to be large, lumbering rabbits (about 5 foot tall at the shoulder) with a thick mane of fur covering their back haunches. Eater Bunnies are ravenously carnivorous though, and will attack any other creature upon sight.

Eater Bunnies attack with their front claws for 1d6 hit points of damage each, and they will bite for 1d8 hit points of damage. Eater Bunnies have two sets of three eyes on either side of its head giving it a 360-degree field of vision. An Eater Bunny can only be surprised on a roll of 1 on a d6. Eater Bunnies travel quickly due to their powerful back legs, and they can leap to a height of 100 feet or a distance of 200 feet. Due to their single-minded drive to eat, Eater Bunnies have a weak will, giving them an effective 3 WIL in mental-bases attacks/defense.

Mutations: leaping, 360-degree field of vision, weak will