Thursday, May 30, 2013

Persephone Sector, a Primer

For character generation in our new Stars Without Numbers game, I gave my players a list of the "known" systems in Persephone Sector. These are the planets and systems that get regular space travel and are part of  greater interstellar society (for good or ill). As the party discovers new planets (especially out in Frontier Space) they will "unlock" new planets they can use as homeworlds for new characters.

Here's the list of starting planets, along with a brief description of each. As things progress, I'll detail each planet in greater detail.

Language: English
A hot, humid planet covered in fungal jungles and swamps. Human cities are built on high plateaus where the temperature is cooler. The unique flora and fauna allows Anatu to produce medicines that rival pretech, and the citizens are uniformly beautiful and youthful.
(High Concept: 1970s lycra sci-fi)

Language: Akkadian
A beautiful planet of ancient forests and warm oceans, Cedar is the home of the Temple of Babylon Eternal, the most powerful and popular religion in Persephone Sector. Cedar is the homeworld of the exotic reptilian aliens known as the Naga.
(High Concept: Techno-pagan Mesopotamia)

Language: Spanish
This planet is constantly shrouded by massive black storm clouds that pour wind and rain upon the fortified cities. Chiaroscuro is the home planet of the powerful Titanomachy Technologies corporation. Titan Tech is locked in constant, bitter competition with Oroborus Inc. The planet is ruled by a hereditary monarchy and old-money noble families.
(High Concept: Space-Borgias)

Language: English
Croesus Minor is a habitable moon orbiting the gas giant Croesus Major. Large sprawling supercities are surrounded by vast tracts of tamed wilderness and industrial farms. Croesus is a second-wave colony founded by a consortium of corporations from Anatu and Netherpool. It is now the largest corporate hub in the sector. The powerful Oroborus Incorporated wields incredible power on Croesus and surrounding systems..
(High Concept: Blade Runner meets Mass Effects Citadel)

Language: English
A planet of rolling hills and forest littered with the ruins of an ancient alien civilization. The New Wave colony allied families has dissolved into a violent three-way clan war. Travelers are encouraged to avoid landing on Dolores.
(High Concept: Appalachian Mountains/Hatfield-and-McCoys IN SPACE!)

Language: English
A hellish planet of volcanoes and lava oceans wrapped in a corrosive atmosphere. The planet holds great mineral wealth, and a rugged lava-mining colony has sprung up here. Humans work alongside the silicon-insect aliens known as Myrmidons.
(High Concept: Janus VI meets Mustafar)

Language: Russian
Cold taiga planet covered with mountains and pine forests. Centuries ago, the Mankiller plague devastated the male population. Katarina now has a matriarchal society divided into small city-states with a black-powder level of technology. Contact has recently been re-established with Katarina after large veins of Prometheum were discovered by corporate prospectors.
(High Concept: Russian black-powder amazons)

This ocean world is home to the octopus-like Kraken. The Kraken are known as the greatest shipwrights in the Sector. There is very little surface land on Kraken, but the natives have many ancient cities deep under the waves, and many shipyards orbit the planet. There are no human settlements here, but Port Nautilus is a port of call for many human spacers.
(High Concept: Alien water-world)

Las Diablas
Language: Spanish
Las Diablas is a binary star system consisting of two large read suns (Lilith and Jezebel). Its lone habitable planet is a desert badland littered with the ruins of a dead FIrst Wave colony. It’s now the home to bandits and outlaws of all stripes. Humans who spend too many years on Las Diablas begin to develop adaptational mutations: solid black eyes, scaly red skin, and horns.
(High Concept: Western/cowboy planet; Mos Eisley mixed with Sparks Nevada's Mars)

Language: English

A cold planet of coral forests with an argon atmosphere. The planet is surrounded by a dense asteroid field known as the Sea of Stones. The only habitation is a large maximum-security prison all-but abandoned by it's founders on Netherpool.
(High Concept: Prison planet, Arkham Asylum IN SPACE!)

Language: English
A planet of rocky deserts orbiting a red sun, Moloch is ruled by the powerful psionic caste. Moloch is home to the largest and most powerful of the already-rare psionic academies. The psionic cult Omega Ascendant wields massive influence on Moloch and surrounding systems.
(High Concept: Korriban mashed up with Dune)

Language: English
A barren, rocky world covered with massive spire-mountains of glistening crystal. Vacuum-sealed cities harvest sunlight reflected from the crystals for power. The crystal mountains hide remnants of long-dead unknown alien civilization. The Netherpudlians have a strict, conservative society with an esoteric legal system. Tread carefully.
(High Concept: Space-Calvinists)

New Arcadia
Language: English
A young colony and the new spiritual homeworld for the Church of the New Prophets. The giant Golden Tree is a pilgrimage site for the Faithful. “Archons” (religious warriors) protect the Faithful from the violent and primitive native aliens known as Golgothans and other dangers.
(High Concept: Dogs in the Vineyard IN SPACE!)

A Hochog colony world, Uld is a planet of cold granite mountains and snowy tundra. Hochog warriors constantly clash for control of the planet’s limited resources. Young Hochog warriors often leave Uld in order to gain honor and gather wealth and power to bring back to their warlords. A weird aberration of  Uld’s magnetic field create massive floating “islands” of stone that drift across the surface of the planet, forming veritable mobile nations.
(High Concept: Space orcs living in a Roger Dean painting)

Language: Russian
A temperate planet of steppes, prairies, and mountains. Volgograd is ruled by an omnipresent police state that maintains an highly-efficient semi-caste system. City-sized factories constantly churn out product that supplies the entire sector. Volgograd suffered the least of all local planets during the Scream, and boasts the largest population in the sector (5 billion).
(High-Concept: Space-soviets with a touch of Imperial Rome)

This cold, rocky planet is the homeworld of the slug-like Yurglings. The Yurglings have allowed several human colonies to establish floating cities on Yurgoloth’s cold, salty oceans. They charge the human colonists outrageous leasing fees.
(High Concept: Crafty, wheeling-dealing space-slugs)

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Stars Without Number: House Rules

So we wrapped up our second Season of Monsterhearts and my group decided to do something different. I love me some high-narrative story games, but I decided that I wanted to run some straight-up adventures. “There's a big ol' dangerous thing over there. Why don't you go take care of that? Here's some material rewards to encourages you.” Classic.

So after pitching Crypts &Things and Adventures on Dungeon Planet (I was really, really pushing for Dungeon Planet) my group decided they wanted to play Stars Without Number. We did a SWN one-shot a couple of months ago and had a good time, and the promise of “Mass Effect meets Firefly” really appealed to the team.

We've had one session so far, and it's gone pretty well. Despite my suggestion that they try to avoid going “too-evil,” my players didn't take long to dive into murder and grand theft. We all had fun, though, so it looks like we're going to have a team of would-be pirates and bounty hunters.

Unlike a lot of my RPG brethren, I don't usually use a lot of house-rules. I do have a few I'm using for my SWN game, though:

Character Generation
1. To generate attribute scores, roll 18d6 and divide them into six groups of three. Put them into whatever stat you want. You don't get the “automatic 14” in your prime requisite, though. If you somehow can't get a net +1 in your modifiers, re-roll the entire set.

2. Maximum Hit Points at first level.

3. Available non-human races are the Hochog (space-orcs from the SWN book), the Naga (androgynous/hermaphrodite lizard people), and the Yurglings (crafty space-slugs).
I'll have more details about these races in a later post.

1. I'm swiping most of the combat maneuvers from Adventurer Conqueror King System. In short, to grapple, disarm, trip, etc. you make an attack a -4 and the target makes a save vs. paralysis (Physical Effect or Evasion save in SWN).

2. Dual wielding two melee weapons or two ranged weapons gives you a +1 to hit. Use the damage for your main weapon. (Also stolen from ACKS.)

3. Add your Attribute Bonus to Saving Throws:
  • Physical Effect = CON (occasionally STR)
  • Mental Effect = WIS
  • Evasion = DEX
  • Technology = INT
  • Luck = CHA (representing your sense of self and place in the universe)

The game takes place in Persephone Sector. I will share those details with you all soon!

Crypts of Dunharrow [Mini-Map "Monday"]

So what with the three-day weekend and all, I lost track of what day it was and totally forgot that yesterday was Monday. So yep, this week's map is late.


Down in the ancient kingdom of Dunharrow, the kings of old were buried in crypts carved into the sides of holy mountains. Centuries have come and gone since the fall of Dunharrow. Now, it looks like somethings from bellow the earth have dug up and broke into the crypts. The ghosts of the kings no longer rest easy. It's time for some heroes to step in.

Friday, May 24, 2013

Moleman [OSR Class]

I've never much cared for halflings. I couldn't even tell you why. After all, I love The Hobbit and I even like Kender. But as a D&D race/class they never much thrilled me. So, as I piece together the Deep Down Below as a FLAILSNAILS setting, I decided to reskin halflings as molemen.

The molemen are shamelessly influenced by John Hodgman's The Areas of My Expertise. This is not the first time I've stolen his molemen.

The Right Honorable Hsss'kiphur,
Moleman of Renown
Molemen are natives of the subterranean realms of the Deep Down Below. These three-foot tall creatures resemble humanoid naked mole rats. They have large teeth, tiny black eyes, iron-hard claws, and hairless pink skin covered with a thin layer of mucus. Despite their hideous appearance, molemen possess a sophisticated culture that values industry and learnedness. Their ideas of natural rights and representative democracy are alien to most other cultures. Molemen are fond of powdered wigs and frock coats.

In addition to their own hideous hissing, clicking language, molemen speak common, dwarf, and morlock.

Moleman Racial Class
Requirements: DEX 9, CON 9
Prime Requisite: STR and DEX
Hit Die: d6
Maximum Level: 8
Weapons: As halfling
Armor: Any, plus shields
Fights as: Fighter
Saves as: halfling

Special Abilities
Claw/Claw: A moleman posses large, iron-hard claws on the tips of his fingers. Instead of using a weapon, he can make two claw attacks each round against one target with his normal to-hit chance. Each claw inflicts 1d4 points of damage. In non-combat situations, the claws function as high-quality picks and shovels.

Phosphorescent Mucus: Unlike most subterranean races, molemen do not possess infravision. Instead they secret a luminous mucus from their skin. Once per day, a moleman can secret enough mucus to effectively reproduce the effect of a light spell with a caster level equal to the moleman's level. Like light, the moleman can even blind opponents by targeting an enemy's eyes with a glob of slime. At 5th level, this ability upgrades to where the mucus reproduces the effects of continual light.

Sneaky: If he remains silent and motionless, a moleman can hide in shadows and behind cover with amazing effectiveness. The moleman's chance of remaining unseen is 5-in-6 underground, indoors, or in dungeons, or 2-in-6 in outdoor or wilderness environments.

Small: Because of their small size, a moleman enjoys a -2 bonus to their AC when fighting larger-than-man-sized creatures.

Reching 8th Level: When a moleman reaches level 8, he has the option of founding a new moleman warren. These warrens are usually located deep underground in caverns and tunnels secured from the wandering monsters of the Deep Down Below. The moleman usually digs these first tunnels with his own claws, but the warren quickly expands as other moleman migrate to the new settlement. The founding moleman serves of governor of the new settlement, but if he rules poorly or foolishly he may be voted out of office.

Level Title Hit Dice (1d6)
0 1 Grubling 1
2,100 2 Wormer 2
4,200 3 Digger 3
8.400 4 Tunneler 4
16,800 5 Glowfellow 5
33,600 6 Moleman 6
67,200 7 Moleman of Note 7
134,000 8 Moleman of Renown 8

Monday, May 20, 2013

Kendrik's Coil [Mini-Map Monday]

Another Monday means another map! This one was also drawn freehand on cheap board with cheap pens. Professional!

Deep in the forest lies the entrance to Kendrik's Coil, a somewhat linear, somewhat spiraling sanctum of the fallen elf Kendrik ap Kragoloth.

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Banshee, Dubstep (Dub Sidhe) [OSR Monster]

The concept of this monster came up in a particularly silly moment in last weekend's Dread game. I decided to state it out for Labyrinth Lord, et al.

Also, I am a grumpy curmudgeon who thinks that modern stupid music and dancing isn't as cool as the stupid music and dancing I did in my 20s. Kids these days...

Banshee, Dubstep (Dub Sidhe)
No. Enc.: 1
Alignment: Chaotic
Movement: 150' (50')
Armor Class: 2
Hit Dice: 6***
Attacks: 1
Damage: 2d6
Save: E6
Morale: 10
Hoard Class: XIV
XP: 1,070

These rare, incorporeal undead appear as young elves in tattered clothing wearing smoked glass lenses over their eyes and glowing bracelets on their wrists.

The Dub Sidhe is naturally ethereal. Only magic and weapons of at least +1 enchantment can hurt it. In combat, the monster will attack with a loud screeching attack of distorted trebles and thundering bass. Every character within 30' of the Dub Sidhe must save vs. dragon breath or take 2d6 damage. A successful save will reduce this damage by half.

Once per day, the Dub Sidhe can produce a crazy “song” of wobbling madness and strange rhythms. Any creature within 60' of the spirit must save vs. spells. Those who fail are compelled to dance stupidly for 2d6 rounds. While dancing, the character cannot attack of cast spells and suffers +4 penalty to their AC. Additionally, the character suffers 1d4 points of damage each round of dancing due to pure exhaustion and throbbing bass. Killing the Dub Sidhe will end this dance prematurely.

A character who dies from the Dub Sidhe's dance will rise up the next night as a new, fully independent Dub Sidhe. 

Monday, May 13, 2013

Skull-Bone Barrow [Mini-Map Monday!]

Out in the untamed lands rests Skull-Bone Barrow. Legend says that the barrow was crafted around the actual skull of a dead giant. Scholars say it's just an unusual affectation of primitive architects. Still others say it's just an odd coincidence that the huge burial chamber resembles a skull.

Private crypts form the "teeth" of the barrow. Huge pits of ever-burning charnel fire form the "eyes." The "nose" is a black pit that leads to unknown Stygian darkness.

Monday, May 6, 2013

Cannibal Drow?

Back in the mid 1980s, the Drow were scary, at least in my neighborhood. Everyone in my local D&D scene, no matter which group they played with, all knew--KNEW!-- that drows were cannibals. If the dark elves caught your character, it was only a matter of time before they killed and ate you. Almost 30 years later, when I think of drow I don't think of tortured anti-heroes or demonic dominatrices. I first think of people-eating monsters.

I like the idea of cannibal drow. It makes them monsters similar to good old-fashioned vampires. "This creature looks human(ish) and beautiful, but it is actually an alien fiend that will kill and eat you if you get too close." The whole capture-and-eat theme fits well with their classic spider motif as well.

I recently started to wonder where this idea came from. Was it merely a regional thing restricted to my small Ohio town and its neighbors? It can't be just that, can it? I remember seeing a throw-away joke about cannibal drow in the old "Yamara" comic.
(c) Manui & Adams
I skimmed through my old First Edition books, and haven't found any references to drow eating people. I've poked around Google a bit, and "cannibal drow" only brings up a couple references to drow eating other sentient creatures, but it's mostly speculative. "You can't farm in the Underdark. Maybe drows are cannibals?" not "I remember when the Lady Taranulass cooked and ate my dwarf!"

So I'm damnably curious.  Does anyone else out there remember Drow being cannibals? Were the dark elves people-eaters in your games, or was this just a localized phenomenon?

Stonepass Station [Mini-Map Monday]

The Stonepass is the only safe passage through the treacherous Westwarden Mountains. Back in Days of Old, the Neversleep clan of dwarves operated a way station halfway down the pass. No one's heard from them in ages, though. Now that the Hag's War is over, someone should probably go check up on them.