Thursday, February 28, 2013

[Inspiration?] Sifting through the ephemera of the 20th century with the technology of the 21st.

Before we go any further, let's get a couple of things out of the way. First, If you have a fetish for print or analog media in general, this post may not be for you. Sorry, but I have gone from being a dedicated book sniffer to the worst kind of technophile in the space of a couple of years.

Second, if you have the means, go ahead and get yourself a tablet. As with the mobile phone, the Internet, and DVD, tablets represent a technology I completely sneered at until I experienced it as a user. To make the level of my conversion clear, laptops were something I knew I'd want from the first I heard of them. I love laptops. Two days before someone gave me this fucking tablet, I was planning to upgrade mine. I have barely turned it on since, and will likely never own another.

I'll touch on the tablet thing again before the end, but the soul of the message is: get a fucking tablet.

The tablet has opened up some doors for me, and made some media I might have had access to, but otherwise ignored, very attractive indeed. This media is really fucking cheap, or absolutely free.

To begin with the cheap, allow me to suggest the MDCU, or Marvel Digital Comics Unlimited. This is a service you can buy from Marvel that gives you access to over 10k comics in their backlog. There is a ton of great stuff on there from every era in Marvel's history. I have lost entire evenings just trying to decide what to read. There are gaps here and there, but by and large, most stuff I've looked at doesn't have this problem. Have you ever wanted to read Stan and Jack's Thor, or FF, or Cap? It's all on there along with a ton of other awesome stuff, including Greg Pak's entire run on the Hulk; the Annihilation event (all of it); old Starlin Cosmic stuff, and lots of newer comics too. The scans are universally awesome. Reading this stuff on a tablet is better than reading the print versions, imo, if only because I can expand and contract panels with a touch of my finger. The MDCU costs 60$ for twelve months, or 10$ for one month. I did the full year and have already easily read many times what I spent worth of comics, and I just finished the second month. I'm looking forward to when Hickman's FF run is up in its entirety, because that is some good shit.
Anyway, you can sign up at the Marvel site:

Moving on, to the free: The internet archive is a wondrous thing. There is so much stuff on there it blows my mind.
Really, though what I'm into now is three things, old pulps, silent movies and radio shows. Radio shows and movies can of course be enjoyed on a variety of hardware with equal ease; pdfs of old pulp magazines, however, are a joy to behold on the tablet. You get the ads and other ephemera, like Horace Gold's essay in the very first issue of Galaxy Science Fiction, wherein he discusses how the future covers of Galaxy can be counted on to be tasteful and will never embarrass you on the subway. Stuff like this helps me put the stories in the context of their time, as does seeing the crappy paper and the groovy 50's illos. In case you haven't clued in, am absolutely obsessed with context.

Here is a link:

Of course, you can look at these magazines and comics on any number of devices, but the tablet is is like a book in its weight and heft, and does not require physical contortions if you want to stretch out on the bed with it- and, this is huge for me, you can adjust the font size with the twitch of a finger. A twitch of the fucking finger. Also it doesn't get hot. Ever.

I feel comfortable suggesting the ipad2' because it is what I own. If you own or have your eye on something different, that is cool too. I'm not interested in any kind of 1998 Apple vs whatever argument here; and I don't watch TV so the ads have no impact on me or my life. If they piss you off, that strikes me as your problem, not Apple's.

I'll post some reviews of some of this stuff over the next couple weeks if there is any interest. In the meantime, whatever you do, do not read the Kree-Skrull war, unless you are looking for that final nudge towards suicide.

Here are some pulp covers, all of these can be found on the archive. The Adventure has a fucking Harold Lamb novel in it! If you don't know what that means, think REH less the race science and sorcery. Go read and be free.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

RUST: The RPG of Mechanized Military Desperation, character generation.


The RPG of Mechanized Military Desperation

Long ago, the wars burned off all the good worlds. For millennia, there was nothing to fight over. Peace spread over the stars like a shroud. It was the peace of defeat- the peace of the grave. Resources dwindled. Hope died. Worlds and cultures perished for wont of room to grow and thrive. Lights went out; silence spread and it might have gone on spreading forever as the sentients of the galaxy went down into quiet extinction, but someone found the Spindle instead.



Player Characters (PCs) in RUST are drawn from all walks of life (against their will, in most cases) and drafted into the military forces of the Andromeda Pact Alliance. Once conscripted, they are used to crew mechs: the giant, weaponized, bipedal war machines that make up the backbone of the APA ground forces on the Spindle.

The APA is engaged in a multi-front, multi-factional war. In the grandest sense, the stage for this war the giant artificial habitat known as the Spindle. On the ground, however, the conflict is comprised of dozens of discrete theaters in as many geographical areas, spread across the length and breadth of the Spindle and the star system contained within in it. That is to say, this one war is actually many wars, none of which are anywhere near resolution.

Despite its scope, the Spindle War is in its early days, and in the rush to get forces on the scene, most (but not all) of the combatants have fielded ill equipped and poorly trained forces. Already, the fighting has grown desperate. Losses have been heavy for most, necessitating the insertion of even more poorly trained troops, thus initiating a disastrous feedback loop.

The game begins in the second month of the war. Player characters in Rust are intended to represent the greenest recruits; play starts with their first day on the job, or not long thereafter.

Character generation has four steps:



For the last two centuries, in the aftermath of the Great Galactic War, the population of the APA has lived spread across thousands of cubed light years of spatial volume, primarily in overcrowded domed cities and space borne habitats. The wars burned all the good worlds away, as they say. People live in what is left. The table below will give a more specific view of the PCs background.

Note: all characters are assumed to be 17-19 years of age; the player may decide the character's other personal details (e.g., eye color).

Roll 1d8 and consult the list below.

1-6. Slacker: You grew up as one of the trillions of dope smoking, stim taking, entertainment consuming, drudge job working, everyday citizens of the alliance. This is the baseline character type and provides no attribute modifiers.

7. Screw: Characters from this background have either ambition or family connections, which secured a better life for them before the war. Screws get 2 bonus points to assign to attributes of the player's choice.

8. Aristocrat: These rare individuals benefit from generations of genetic manipulation. They begin play with two of their attributes at 0 and one attribute at 1. Aristocrats also start the game with a Thunderbolt (side arm). However, if you are an aristocrat who somehow finds oneself as a mechanized infantry grunt, it's a pretty safe bet that someone powerful wants you dead, you're crazy or, at the very least, on the run from something. Aristocrats are always pilots.



APA Marines do not have choice as to the nature of their training. Aristocrats are always trained as pilots. Commoners (slackers and screws) must roll 1d4 and consult the table below.

1. Pilot (PLT)

Rank: Commander. The pilot is at the top of the command chain on paper, but it does not always work out that way in the field. The pilot receives a -2 to all PLT job checks and a -3 to GUN job checks and a -4 to all ENG/SWD job checks.

2. Engineer (ENG)

Rank: Lancer. The engineer is second in command. The engineer receives -2 to all ENG and SWD checks, -3 to all PLT/GUN job checks. The engineer is responsible for keeping the ship operational at all times, but especially during travel and combat.

3. Gunner (GUN)

Rank: Sergeant. The gunner is at the bottom of the command structure. The gunner receives -2 to all GUN job checks and -4 to all other job checks.

4. Steward (SWD)

Rank: The steward lies outside the command structure of the crew. The steward receives a -2 to all SWD job checks. It is the steward’s responsibility to keep the ship's life support functional at all times, but especially during combat and travel. The steward has several other responsibilities as well. The steward is charged with gathering data on both the forces of the various enemy armies in the field and the crew of the mech. In regards to the latter it is the specific task of the steward to monitor the loyalty of the crew and report back to the Home Office (the political arm of the ruling oligarchy) as opposed to Allied Military Command (AMC).



Trapped in their decaying industrial habitats for centuries, it's been a long time since people applied themselves. MACHINES DO ALL THE WORK AND ALL THE THINKING. This is a societal constant, but its impact varies somewhat within the population. Overall though, even the best people society has to offer have lead lives of lazy indolence and are, as a result, soft. No doubt if the means and technology of the past remained to them, the APA would fight the current war with automatons. As it is, they use what is available.

During normal times, attributes would range from 1 to 4, with the high score of 4 being the most beneficial. During the current decadent age, however, scores range from -2 to +2 at the start of play. Attribute scores act as modifiers in job checks and general checks, which will be explained in a later section on task solution.

Slacker characters, yanked from their hedonistic existence in the urb-cubes, thrust through training, and dropped into war, begin the game with a -1 in all four attributes. They may select one attribute to reduce to -2 in order to raise another one to 0.

Screws begin with this same baseline, but have 2 points to adjust attributes, or an attribute of their choice upward.

Aristocrats begin the game with a single attribute at a value of +1 and all others attributes at 0.


MIND: represents intelligence and education

MUSCLE: represents strength, endurance and coordination.

SAND: represents instinct, guts and will.

The combined value of these numbers is the attribute total.


POWER: Represents psionic potency. It is determined by rolling a d4 and adding (or subtracting) the total of the three main attributes. This number acts both as an absolute value and a resource pool.

HIT POINTS: everyone starts with 10 hit points, adjusted up or down by adding or subtracting the pc's attribute total (see above).



Every character begins the game with a ship suit and a fresher kit. Further equipment is distributed at the time of deployment. What the quartermaster includes in your field kit is always a subject to chance; slackers and screws roll once on the table below, aristocrats and stewards roll twice. Stewards also begin the game with a special kit given to them by the Home Office. All gear is described below. It should be noted that there is no real cash economy amongst grunts; all exchange is based on barter.

Roll a d12

1. Armor: impact coverall, +10 points ablative vs. melee and projectile weapons

2. Sidearm: Stormbolt +1 to hit at shirt range cannot shoot past medium range. Does 1d4x damage. Battery holds 10 charges, plugged in to a mech it recharges at a rate of 1 charge an hour. Roll 1d10 at start of play to see how many charges the battery currently holds. Spent batteries can be switched out for fresh if they are available.

3. Mess Kit/5 day’s food. Includes a preternaturally durable spork, a plastic water bottle, and a plate/bowl than can be used as a skillet.

4. Bottle of whisky and a pack of cigarettes.

5. First aid kit. Stewards are trained how to use these.

6. Entrenchment tool: it's a folding shovel. Can do 1d3 as a melee weapon.

7. Maser rifle old school weapon -2 at short range, +1 at medium, +2 at long. 2d6x damage. Rate of Fire: once every other round.

8. Gren tangler: This is weapon confiscated from the possessions of captured or slain troop of the gren (reptile aliens) army. A successful attack leaves the target wrapped in a silky sticky net, not unlike a spider's web. A substance known as webaway, which is sometimes found amongst mech supplies, may dissolve this webbing.

9. Emergency Tent. Pressurize; sleeps two; provides adequate shelter in most conditions.

10. Inflatable raft. Holds 6.

12. Roll twice, ignore this result.

A ship suit is a snug coverall like garment that provides an ablative shield worth five hit points total of any kind of damage.

The game begins moments after these items have shoved into your hands, when you find yourself aboard the robot drop rocket, on your way to your mech, headed into the shit.

The Spindle.

Friday, February 8, 2013

Metal Earth Psionics

Metal Earth Psionics

I'm still working out how I want combat to roll between adepts, but here is the rest of it.

At character generation, a d12 is rolled for each character:

A result of 12 indicates that the character is psionically invisible and can never gain psionic powers. The character is completely immune to all psionic effects, for better or worse. Forever. Note: although, the character is immune to direct psionic activity, he is still vulnerable to secondary effects; for example, a telekinetic may drop an object on such a character, but would unable to lift the character directly.

A roll of a 1 indicates that the character has psionics.
The player must then choose whether to begin the game at one level below that of the rest of the party and have access to psionic abilities from the start of play, or to begin play with dormant psionic powers. Henceforth, each time the character is psionically attacked, roll a d4, a result of 1 indicates the character's psionic abilities have become active.

Characters without psionics, roll the d12 once more after the first time they are psionically attacked in play. A result of 1 indicates the character has developed dormant psionic abilities, and will be subject to the process detailed above. From the second time they are attacked on, these characters continue to roll the d12 once per incident; a result of 1 indicates the character has gained dormant psionic ability, and will roll as instructed above. The result of 12 however, signifies nothing.

Characters with psionic abilities will henceforth be referred to as adepts; characters with no ability are referred to as the silent, those invisible to psionics are the lost.

Gravity is adept jargon for an individual's psionic power. In game terms this quality is represented by a derived attribute of the same name. A character's Gravity score is equal to the average of the six main attributes + 1/2 lvl. This number is Gravity's maximum value, as with hit points it is subject to loss and recovery and may rise and fall throughout the course of an adventure.


All psionic activity takes a toll on the adept, as represented by a related reduction to the adept's current gravity pool.

Adepts recover gravity at a rate of 1 point per hour of sleep, unless their points have been reduced to zero or below. For each point below zero her gravity pool falls, the adept will spend a week in a coma. If the gravity pool falls below -2 the adept must make a save vs death. Failure indicates the adept's brain and central nervous system have shut down. Death will result in 1d4 rounds.

An adept whose Gravity pool is reduced exactly to zero will be only recover Gravity at half the normal rate, and suffer a cap to his gravity pool at half its normal maximum value, further, the adept will be unable to engage in active or invasive psionic activity. These restrictions are in effect for 1d4 days after which, normal conditions, in regards to both recovery and power access, reassert themselves.

Passive, aggressive and invasive psionic activity.
Three types of psionic activity exist: passive, active, and invasive.

Passive psionic activity includes actions such as maintaining a psionic shield or staying alert to the psionic environment around you.

Aggressive psionic activity includes such things as taking psychometry reading on an object and initiating a violent attack.

Invasive psionic activity is actually aggressive activity that manifests in, i.e., invades, physical reality.

Doing Things:
The success of psionic activity, including that related to combat, is adjudicated in a simple fashion. The active party commits a number of points from their gravity pool. This number is subtracted from the pool's total and added to the results of a d6. The total of the latter operation is compared to a target number (TN). If the TN is lower, the attempt is adjudged a success. The particulars of both TN calculation and the effect of success vary from case to case, and are covered in the individual power entries.

Determining Player Character Powers:

Each character automatically receives the shield and hear abilities and 1 additional power. Once per level the character my opt to spend lvl x 1000 xp to gain one additional power. This price represents time lost from character class related learning and spent in psionic meditation and introspection.

Passive Powers:

Cost: 1 gravity point for 2 hours or 5 points and one hour meditation, for 24 hours.
This is a mind shield that protects against attack and survailence. This ability grants the adept a +4 to mental defense die rolls. This modifier may be split with other characters at the discretion of the player, although any such assignations much commence at the beginning of the psionic combat round.

Enables adept to perceive psionic communications and other activity. The character is able to perceive activity and communications, at a range equal to their current gravity pool total in KM.

How it works: whenever either conventional psionic activity or communication are initiated within the adept's radius of perception, the referee rolls a d6 and subtracts the value of gravity expended in the execution of said activity. The resultant figure is the TN. If this number is lower than 1/3 the total value of the adept's current Gravity pool, she is aware of the activity, its general nature, and the location of the active party within a kilometer or so. If the activity in question is a psionic conversation, the adept may initiate a conventional psionic attack agains the active party. Once the success or failure of the attack has been ascertained, the referee will roll one of the tables below on behalf of the active character to determine outcome.

Success 1d4
1. Receive general idea of conversation, but unable to ascertain specifics. 2. Rceive the entire conversation, complete with details, unable to identify participants 3. As with 2, additionally the adept can see the participants, and if known to her, identify them. If unknown the adept will recognize them on sight if encountered at a later time. 4 As with 3, additionally the adept will see the locations of each of the conversation's participants through their own eyes (this will be in addtion to the general location knowledge as stared above).

Failure 1d4

1. Confused snatches of conversation, possibly misleading (referee's descretion). 2-3. No effect. 4. Conversation received, but particpents gradually become aware that they are being spied upon. If they make a Successful counter attack, they will know the eavesdropper's location.

Note: psionic conversations typically take less than one second, regardless of how long they seem subjectively to the participents.

Cost: 1GP/hour
This power allows the user increased environmental awareness. Characters with this power will automatically detect sources of harmful radiation at their current Gravity pool value (CG) in meters distance. Characters will also gain the thief abilities move silently, hide in shadows, and hear noise at two levels below their own current level (minimum level 1). Thieves and assassins will double their scores in these abilities while using this power.

Active Powers:

Cost: Discretionary
Allows characters to initiate psychic combat with an adept or one of the ignorant. The adept selects how many points to alot from the gravity pool. These points translate in to a positive modifier for the psychic combat resolution check.

Adepts with his power may send their thoughts to others. The adept may communicate 2/km per Gravity point invested. It is well, understood, however, that such communications are not completely secure, see the listeng for the Hear power listed above.

This power allows the adept to see into someone's past by touching an object associated with or belonging to the, The TN is the number of days that have passed since the object was last touched. For every 5 gravity points spent, the player may see 1d10x days into the subject's past. Usually, pertinent information or violent/dramitc events are what is seen.

Invasive powers

Cost: The player may lift 1kg per gravity point spent.
Tis is the power to mainpulate physical reality with one's mind. It may be possible for extermly high level adepts to kill by stopping hearts or shutting down blood flow or what have you. That shit isn't covered yet, and is pretty much a matter myth in the Metal Earth. It happens, sure, but no one has seen it in a very very long time, and it must be learned from someone who already knows how.

Cost: 1gp/pt of damage & 1 pt per 5' range. If the character wishes to touch the target, no addtional point is required by a to hit roll must be made.
This is an etheirc balst of pure mental energy. Cost, range and damage are detailed anove. How it looks/sounds/smells is up to the player, but once these things are selected, she is stuck with them forever.

Cost: 2x number of hit points taken, but if successfull full recovery is made instantly.
Drain hit points from other living beings, these beings are allowed an ST vs. death. If the throw is made they suffer no ill effects and the adept loses the commited points. 1 in 6 adepts with this power can take sustenance no other way, and must feed off sentient beings in order to survive. Beginning 1d4 days after a successful feeding (25% of the adept's maximum HP); 1hp and 1gp are lost everyday between feedings, and the adept cannot heal. Incedently this is how moonwraiths feed, and if the PC is found out, there might be some serious social repercussions.


Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Metal Earth: Two Derived Attributes, and PC/Setting Interface.

Education and Handy

These two attributes add a touch of complexity to the the game, but significantly enhance the player character's interface with the setting.

Metal Earth has a lot of old technology laying around, and whereas technology is, for the most part, the purview of the Master Mind class, other characters may wish to attempt to use advanced technological items as well- or they may need at some point to fix a wagon; figure out how to drive an air car; make a knife out of a rock; or any of a million other tasks, minor or major. The Handy attribute may be useful in more traditional campaigns when a non-thief PC attempts to pick a lock or disarm a trap (or fix a wagon...).

It has occurred to me lately that players more fully engage with the elements they take or draw out from the setting (i.e., treasure) than those which they are given. Anything, whether it be a magic sword or a scrap of information, gained after a successful die roll, counts as taken and is, therefore, treasure. The Education attribute transforms setting details from tedium to treasure.

EDUCATION: This numerical value of this attribute is equal to the average of the characters intelligence and wisdom score. The number represents the general level of the characters knowledge in regards to the setting, including the character's awareness of current events.

HANDY: This number is the average of intelligence and dexterity divided by two. It represents the lay characters ability to repair, understand and operate technological/mechanical items.

Checks on both these abilities are performed with 3d6. The player must roll under the attribute score for a success. The character may make multiple checks, but each one must be separated by a day. In the case of long term library research, or a large scale repair, the referee may wish to randomly determine the number of hours/days necessary per attempt.

Further, the referee should almost certainly in every case add positive or negative modifiers based upon the character's background and any other salient factors that come to mind.

Level based advancement: player characters my add a point to one of the attribute (their choice) every other level beginning at second level.

Note to the referee: These attributes may seem rather understated, and perhaps a bit pointless, at first glance, and, to be honest, I can't really speak as to the usefulness of the Handy attribute in any given campaign, but my own. However, the education attribute works in a surprisingly dramatic way. If you make a player roll to see if they can remember the ruler of the city-state's name, succeed or fail, that information comes alive and gains weight for the players; it becomes something other than a dry detail hidden in your setting notes.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Reveiw, The Teratic Tome by Rafael Chandler


Teratic Tome
Rafael Chandler, author.

What follows is a review of the .pdf version of Rafael Chandler's monster supplement, The Teratic Tome. I received a complementary review copy of this book from the author, after expressing enthusiasm for the free online sample. Briefly, my opinion of the product remains overwhelmingly positive; if you are looking for a book of offbeat creatures with an horrific element, you would do well to pick up a copy. What follows is a more detailed examination of the book and its contents.

That the book uses OSRIC is clearly stated on the title page, if not the cover of the .pdf, but as with most products so designed, use with similar systems requires little or no effort on the part of the referee. Disregarding the title page and other miscellany , the meat of the text encompasses one hundred and six pages, and contains complete descriptions, and statistical blocks for one hundred and twenty one monsters. An alphabetical breakdown precedes the main monster listing, as does a treasure table and an explantion of the TAZ (THACO) entry found in each of the monster starblocks to follow.

Layout of the book is reminiscent of of various 1e monster books. I found it clean and readable. Overall, the .pdf looks excellent on my tablet.

The individual monster listings each contain a 1e style statblock, a full write up and an illustration. The stat blocks are the standard 1e affair, with the addition of TAZ.

Written descriptions range in length from a few paragraphs to a page or so at most; the majority fall in the middle range, consisting of several paragraphs of single colunm text. The quality is uniformly excellent. Most of the descriptions contain ecology notes and adventure seeds. Often, the two are one and the same.

The illustrations range from good to excellent. The artwork, however, contains a fair amount of body horror, and female nudity. There may even be a penis hiding in there somewhere, I'm not certain, and I couldn't be bothered to go back and look. Anyway, If such things make you uncomfortable, this is likely not the book for you.

The Teratic Tome contains many unique and original creatures, but it also includes varients of traditional creatures, e,g., dragons, devils, demons, owlbears and slimes. Several of the new monsters, such as the audience, have variants as well. Thirty three of the creatures are unique entities. Taken as a whole, the assortment is decidedly weighted towards higher level creatures. Seventy of the one hundred and twenty one monsters presented are level six and above, and thirty three are at tenth level, alone.

Although there are a some 'stand up and fight style' creatures in the book, such as the locust myrmidon, most of the monsters represented are provided with motivations and/ or interesting combat/hunting strategies. Many of the beast prey upon the transgressive or upon their victims. The demimondaine, for example, possess the body of a female murder victim, turns the corpse into an undead killing machine and proceeds to hunt down and slay anyone who ever wronged the woman in life. Another creature, the Infiltrator, impersonates the leaders of powerful criminal organizations, such as a thieves' guild, and sets about sewing strife within the ranks of the organization, its ultimate objective: to destroy the guild in as chaotic and violent manner as possible. Other monsters prey on the week, lustful, greedy, wealthy, innocent and guilty alike. Many if these creatures, such as the above mentioned Infiltrator could easily provide the basic impetus for a long series of adventures, if not an entire campaign.

Taken as whole the monster descriptions present an interesting implied setting. This setting has historical elements, details of an ongoing war in the land of the dead, possibility of alien invasion and even a hint of diakaiju. Other interesting details abound, any of which could easily be adopted or discarded by the referee. Overall the world presented looks rather horrific, which I found to be a point in its favor. However, as stated above, such details are easily passed over or adapted by the referee.

I could not hope to fully encompass the contents of the Teratic Tome in any review of reasonable length. Suffice to say that it comes with my highest possible recommendation. If further detail is desired, there is a free sample containing several complete monster listings on
Thanks for reading.