Friday, May 29, 2020

A Manifesto



Recently, a game designer, publisher, blogger, and Ennie winner posted a Manifesto about how to play Dungeons & Dragons on Twitter.  Yes, Twitter. The Internet's equivalent of Mordor.

This Manifesto took a stand about how you should play DnD, used a terrible font, used profanity, railed against Wizards of the Coast and Paizo, used a terrible font, and revealed that game balance was a lie. The font is terrible, please trust me on this.

A discussion was had in a Facebook group and I posted my thoughts there. I don't think any arguments ensued though because Tim Knight hosts a great FB group and its members are very cool people.

But the Manifesto stuck with me. There have been times where I would have completely agreed with its author, but at the moment I almost completely disagree with the author but that could change tomorrow.

And that led me to think about my opinions of games and gaming as I've "matured". My maturity level changes by the hour. I'm not proud of that fact but I am honest enough to admit it.

In the early 90s I loved playing Champions, I wanted to love playing ADnD, and I was looking everywhere for the perfect game to play and run. I consumed games purely to learn their system. I'd run games purely to test them out and abandon them and my player's characters without a second thought.

In the Mid-90s I wanted to love the World of Darkness because I dug its system and I had an interest in horror and serious roleplaying. Or so I told myself. In fact, when I ran the WoD it was more like Shadowrun with Supernaturals as stand-ins for Supers.

At the turn of the century, I fell in love with John Wick as a game designer and his Legend of the Five Rings RPG helped my wife and I fall in love with each other. I would run games with up to 18 players to prove that I could and to impress her. Roleplaying was still very important and story mattered more than anything else.

Through the next decade, I found Story Games and bought games like John Wick's Thirty, Dark Pages, Spirit of the Century, and Sorcerer. Only a handful of my players could live up to my expectations as a Story Teller and I was obsessed with forming some kind of Invite-Only Uber Role Playing Group. I was a turd looking for drama and I found plenty of it.

In fact, I found so much drama that I stopped role-playing at all. Except that's not 100% true. I began to realize that being a Husband and a Dad was more important than role-playing and they damn well should be. I should have realized it sooner but I still needed to grow up.

Eventually, I found the OSR, started this blog, and came back. Except I don't have time for drama and this takes a backseat to everything else now. I won't lie, I'm pretty darn tired and I'm not yet 50. All I expect from my players is that we all be kind to each other. All that I want from a game is to blow off some steam, laugh like heck, and roll some dice. That's it. Will things change? I assume so, but that is where I'm at right now.

My point to all of this is to say that I could have written that Manifesto at any time between 1991 and yesterday and I might not even feel the same way about it an hour later. We change. And that means we are alive.

And in 2020 that might be the only thing we have left.

I hope to reach a point in the near future where my biggest concern is how people play DnD. I'd like that a whole lot. That would be a nice change of pace.

Thursday, May 28, 2020

Percentile Systems

For the record, I loathe the Zocchihedron.


I'm not sure if the first time I encountered a Percentile system was FASA's Star Trek or Call of Cthulhu. I do know that when I saw how clear my odds of success were I was kind of gobsmacked (I was equally transformed upon learning Cyberpunk 2.0.2.0.'s mechanics). No probabilities to work out on a d20, 2d6, or 3d6 -- just a flat percentage.

Sadly, for many years, I avoided them because I felt many Percentile systems had a fairly low chance of success even though analysis of other games like D&D shared similar probabilities that were merely camouflaged. Additionally, you shouldn't have to roll your Drive of 40% skill whenever your character gets behind the wheel, but you have to learn that as a player and game master.

I will say that Chaosium's Magic World and Call of Cthulhu 7th Edition's option of assigning a certain number of percentages to skills in a similar fashion to FATE's skill pyramid helped me look past that flaw. I'd always enjoyed assigning points to skills but I often would only assign a 40 or 50% chance of success in my most important skills so I literally ignored the probabilities even as naked as they were.

Over the last few years, I've also been working out my own twist to Percentage systems. Its basically a riff on the D20 system in that the GM assigns a Difficulty (generally 30, 50, or 70%) and the Character's skill (say between +10 & +30%) alters the Difficulty. E.G. Earl wants to climb a wall at night to get past some armed sentries to steal some important data for ESCHELON. Earl's Climb is +15% and the GM sets the difficulty at 40% so Earl has an adjusted Difficulty of 55%.

I'd like to do something with this but so far haven't mustered the gumption to get it done.

If my group needs a One-Shot in the next few months, I'm thinking about running the Storm Trooper game with this system.

I've often been torn over wether I like a game system with some neat dice tricks like 13th Age, Unknown Armies, and Fantas AGE or ones that just get out of the way like D20, Unisystem, or Basic Role Play. My answer changes depending on the hour, but I find myself looking for simpler options as I get older. Additionally, with such a large number of newer and younger players in my stores I feel that teaching a Percentile system is pretty straightforward and can let you get into the action fairly quickly. Especially, if you play around with a

Wednesday, May 27, 2020

Playtesting the Psi Knight Sub-Class for Fighter



Our Friday group was able to physically get together this past weekend and I asked if I could convert my 7th level Kensei Monk to the Psi Knight to try it out. My DM is cool and allowed me to switch it up with a story idea.

AJ is great DM and his sessions are always a blast. We have a lot of fun in his game and this session was no different.

As I played the Psi Knight something strange occurred. I've never one of those people who think Psionics doesn't fit into Fantasy but that is the conclusion I ended up feeling at the end of the session. The Psi Knight did pretty well in our fights, at least as well as my Monk, but his powers just didn't feel right to me. In fact, I felt the build was a little one-dimensional.

While the movement abilities are intriguing I don't know that I'd use them much.

At the end of the session I asked if it was cool to go back to my Monk build and thankfully AJ was good with that too.

I'm still intrigued by the Psychic Sub-Classes but I'm not sure if I'm as willing to add them to my games.

Wednesday, May 13, 2020

Mythic Odysseys of Theros is Making Me Eat My Words


A few months back I went on a tirade about Wizards of the Coast publishing the Magic: the Gathering Setting Theros this June for Dungeons and Dragons 5E. 

I owe WotC an apology and I am here to eat my words. I find myself getting excited about the setting and looking forward to the product. While the print book will be delayed the DnDBeyond content won't and since our group pitches in to unlock all the content we will be able to read through it on June 2nd.

I won't lie that I'd like to see a classic setting this winter or next year but that is WotC's decision and not mine and I'm going to enjoy reading up on Theros.

While I'm not defending my anger, I will say that there have been several Greek/Roman-inspired settings for 5E in the last few years, but none of them from Wizards. 

And I won't lie, staring at a Global Pandemic makes you really put your Nerd Rage into perspective, plus Wizards need to eat and apparently I need to consume.

I don't know if I'll still be running my Epic 5E game come June, but if I am, you can expect that I will take the PCs there and post about it right here.

Tuesday, May 12, 2020

Tarrasque's Are Overrated or I Wish 5E Hadn't Used the Name Challenge Rating



Friday night, my player's characters moved back in time and went from 13th level to 20th level. Don't ask.

As they came to their senses after the time jaunt the Tarrasque loomed large in the Fantom Ocean roaring a challenge to them.


The battle was joined...


This is the second Tarrasque fight I've run in 5E and this one went better than the first but even with running multiple enemies, the fight was pretty easy for the PCs. I did swallow one, but she had acid resistance and when she cast thunderwave in his gullet I had it deal double damage.

The notion of balancing encounters is something that I ignored in previous editions. I started embracing it in early 5E because I had a group that preferred it. But as we've played together we all mostly agree that a group skilled at playing 5E has huge advantages against most enemies as the rules are written. Additionally, we play 2-3 hours sessions and I don't worry about X number of encounters per adventuring day. I'll be thinking of ways to make battles more interesting and more challenging. I don't have the answer yet, but I'll post about it when I figure out how I want to proceed.

I'm excited about leaning into an Epic DnD game and I've decided I'm going to use Grant Morrison's JLA run for inspiration. Maybe I can even research how he used those stories for his Wizard War with Alan Moore. I've always wanted a game that used their War as a setting. Maybe this one will do that, two demi-gods using the PCs as pawns in their machinations.

Sunday, May 10, 2020

Epic Level D&D: The Bard



As I prepare to run a 20th Level DnD 5E game I decided to mine DnD 4E's Epic Destinies for inspiration on Boons. Its kind of odd, but I've found that I really miss many elements of 4E. I love the Nentir Vale, I'm a big fan of Essentials, and I think it's pretty damn cool that some Epic Destinies have Powers that start with "Once per day when you die".

One of the characters is a Bard, and I'm going to convert the Lorekeeper Epic Destiny from the Player's Handbook 2 to 5E.

Lorekeeper Epic Destiny for DnD 5E

Lorekeeper's Wisdom - You have Advantage on all Intelligence checks. Additionally, if you are trained in the skill appropriate to a monster's type (Arcana covers aberrations, constructs, dragons, elementals, monstrosities, and oozes; Nature covers beasts, fey, humanoids, giants, and plants; Religion covers celestials, fiends, and undead) you deal an additional 1d4 damage any creatures of those types.

Lorekeeper's Cunning - You can double the time it takes to perform a Ritual to reduce the component cost by half. Additionally, whenever you score a critical hit against a creature whose origin is within the purview of one of your trained skills, you gain Advantage to attack rolls against that creature until the end of your next turn.

Lorekeeper Tactics - As a bonus action target a creature within 60 feet of you. Until the beginning of your next turn, you and any allies within 60 feet of the target gain a bonus to damage rolls equal to your Intelligence modifier (minimum of 1).

Lorekeeper's Revelation - Once per day when you finish a short rest, you can choose expended spell slots to recover. The spell slots can have a combined level that is equal to or less than half your bard level (rounded up).

Thursday, May 7, 2020

A Funny Thing Happened On Roll20



I'm really enjoying running games on Roll20. My anxiety before running a session is less and I'm sure it has to do with not being able to see my players. For the record, I have great people in my groups, but my anxiety often makes me feel like I'm not good enough to do this or this will be the session where they group finally grow tired of my DMing. It's illogical, but that's anxiety.

One of the games I'm running started at 10th Level and was based on a Savage Worlds Campaign called Evernight. Essentially, Illithids (and their aberration servitors races) invade the Lands of Valusia and Kos and begin to block out the Sun (in effect blocking Pelor from his faithful).

I opened the game with the players waking us as clones with no memories after being cloned and they discovered that their native Valusia was being invaded from the stars. As they moved into Valusia and tried to help the innocent, they encountered the aberrations that were terrorizing the lands of Valusia and they learned that they may have had a hand in helping the invasion occur. Additionally, due to their folly, Istus the Goddess of Fate was abducted into the Far Realms by a tentacled thing.

One of the players, Russ, had a half-orc Fighter named Sholgar with a Dark Secret, he knew what had transpired and why.  

They eventually found their way to the lair of the Sphinx Aravel and she explained that she was surprised to see them again. They asked what they had wanted from her in their previous visit and she explained that they had sought the Wish she guarded but they couldn't solve her riddle and were kept from obtaining the spell. This time they solved the riddle and the Wish was handed over and Russ, due to his Dark Secret, immediately  Wished that his allies would be returned to a time before both the invasion and the death of his friend Ashton.


So the Party, sans Russ (casting a Wish destroys the caster with no possibility of resurrection) learns the truth of their missing time. Several years ago, the characters made the acquaintance of a Sorcerer named Zing Zao Zang and while fighting the Tarrasque a member of their Party, Ashton Starcatcher, prevented King Gryph of Valusia from reading the Wish spell to destroy the monster by ripping it from the good King's hands and casting it himself.

While Valusia was saved, their band, especially Shlogar, wanted to find a way to bring Ashton back. Zing Zao Zang promised them that she had researched an item that would allow the user to cast a Wish without paying the price of total destruction. She needed two things, an orb called the Heart of Darkness that was acquired in the Tomb-City of Pifany and a Wish spell guarded by the Sphinx Sarkt and his wife Aravel. However, they could not pass the riddle that guarded the Wish spell, though they did retrieve the Heart of Darkness.

They met up with Zang in King's Port, the capital of Valusia, and presented the Heart of Darkness to her. When she found out they had failed at securing the Wish spell she lost her temper, raging at them for their weakness and cursing them for making things harder. Then she used the Heart and an Illithid ship crashed down upon the group slaying them instantly and announcing that the invasion had begun.

However, with the Wish sending them back before this they arrived as Level 20 characters that are preparing to face the Tarrasque with King Gryph heading their way with the Wish presented to his family from Boccob several hundred years ago.

Shits gonna get real.

Wednesday, May 6, 2020

The Wish Spell



I remember the first time I sat with my group and made ADnD 2nd Edition characters and the conservation swung around to the Wish spell and we all marveled over the possibilities and cracked jokes about how Todd, our DM, would screw us over with the wording.

I won't lie, the Wish spell had only played a part in one of my campaigns, the only DnD campaign I've ever run from 1st to 20th level. This was a few years ago using 5E and the characters needed a Wish to kill the Tarrasque (I don't know where I picked up this being necessary to kill it, but that's how my multiverse works). I was super hyped to run that fight and because I hadn't caught on to how CR worked in 5E it was a pretty short fight. The characters...or more precisely the players were too adept with their abilities and the Tarrasque was a chump.

What's interesting is that a Wish spell and the Tarrasque are part of the conversation with one of my current DnD 5E games on Roll20.

While not all of my DnD games take place on the same Prime Material Plane, they all share the same multiverse. For instance, in my multiverse, the Tarrasque is Vorel, the older brother of Bahamut and Tiamat. Tiamat is dead and has been replaced by Ashardalon. St. Cuthbert has disappeared from Oerth because he was trapped within Demiplane of Dread. A Wish is needed to kill the Terrasque and the Tarrasque only appears when one of the God of Dragons is killed. Last time it appeared because Tiamat was assassinated.

Wish is not a spell that a caster can learn. There are always five Wish scrolls available and they are all guarded by Sphinxes. The big drawback to the Wish spell is that the person who casts it (and anyone can) is completely consumed in the process, their body and soul empowering the magic they invoke with a small portion used to create and hide the Wish spell that replaces it and create the Sphinx including their lair. Essentially, when you cast a Wish spell you die and it is impossible to resurrect you. Unless, of course, someone else wants to cast a Wish to do it.

I gave the Players a Wish spell last session and one of my players cast it. Now they have traveled back in time and are about to face the Tarrasque. But that's a story for another post.

Tuesday, May 5, 2020

May the 4th Be With You: Storm Troopers



Back in January, I started using TinyD6 to run a couple of Star Wars one-shot where the players were Storm Troopers just after the Battle of Yavin.

I picked up Modern War from Zozer Games that uses the Cepheus Engine (an OGL version of Mongoose Traveller 1E) with the plan to run a one-shot using the system. 

For the record TinyD6 is great, but I've never run or played Traveller/Cepheus and I'm intrigued by it.

Here are those same Storm Troopers using Modern War:

Trooper 1
SLICER
Strength: 6 (+0)
Dexterity: 8 (+0)
Endurance: 6 (+0)
Intelligence: 6 (+0)
Education: 11 (+1)

SKILLS 
Blaster +0 (3d6 damage)
Computers +1
Hover Vehicle +0
Linguistics +1
Melee +0 (1 damage)
Navigation +0
Slicer +3
ARMOR 6

Trooper 2
GUNNER
Strength: 11 (+1)
Dexterity: 9 (+1)
Endurance: 6 (+0)
Intelligence: 8 (+0)
Education: 5 (-1)

SKILLS 
Blaster +0 (3d6 damage)
Carousing +1
Heavy Blaster +3 (4d6 damage)
Hover Vehicle +0
Melee +0 (2 damage)
RPG +1
Streetwise +0
Survival +0
ARMOR 6

Trooper 3
SQUAD LEADER
Strength: 6 (+0)
Dexterity: 10 (+1)
Endurance: 6 (+0)
Intelligence: 9 (+1)
Education: 12 (+2)

SKILLS 
Blaster +1 (3d6 damage)
Comms +0
Computers +1
Hover Vehicle +0
Jack of All Trades +0
Leadership +1
Melee +0 (2 damage)
Tactics +1
ARMOR 6

Trooper 4
MARKSMAN
Strength: 10 (+1)
Dexterity: 9 (+1)
Endurance: 7 (+0)
Intelligence: 7 (+0)
Education: 6 (+0)

SKILLS 
Blaster +3 (3d6 damage)
Heavy Weapons +0
Hover Vehicle +0
Melee +0 (2 damage)
Pistol +0 (2d6 damage)
Recon +1
Survival +1
ARMOR 6

Trooper 5
RIFLEMAN
Strength: 8 (+0)
Dexterity: 8 (+0)
Endurance: 6 (+0)
Intelligence: 8 (+0)
Education: 6 (+0)

SKILLS 
Blaster +1 (3d6 damage)
Hover Vehicle +0
Medicine +0
Melee +0 (2 damage)
Navigation +0
Recon +3
Survival +1
ARMOR 6

Trooper 6
MEDIC
Strength: 6 (+0)
Dexterity: 6 (+0)
Endurance: 8 (+0)
Intelligence: 8 (+0)
Education: 12 (+2)

SKILLS 
Blaster +1 (3d6 damage)
Computers +1
Hover Vehicle +0
Linguistics +0
Medicine +3
Melee +0 (2 damage)
Pistol +0
ARMOR 6


Thursday, April 30, 2020

Roll20



For the last several weeks, like many, I've been running games on Roll20. Each week I discover some new feature and my fondness for the platform grows.

I'm running a 12th Level game on Fridays and a 3rd Level game on Mondays.

The 12th Level game should get interesting this week, the group will be faced with an important decision.

The 3rd Level game has been interesting. I was originally expecting five players, but two of those players might not be able to make it and I'm really enjoying having three players. Its a nice change of pace.

When we get back to face to face gaming it is going to be hard because two former players were able to join us on Roll20 and they most likely won't be able to when we switch back.

The new Roll20 feature that was revealed to me is an extension for the Chrome browser that allows your DnDBeyond character sheet or monster stat block to become interactive and even allows dice rolls. It was an awesome tool and has just made my job as DM much, much easier.

It's called Beyond 20 and I can't recommend it enough.

Sunday, April 12, 2020

A Belated Happy Birthday!



On April 10th, 2020 Cross Planes turned eight and its been quite a ride. As usual, I'm running behind because here in Kentucky, we have a Social Distancing order, which means Comic Book World can do curbside pick-up and mail-order. At the beginning of this, my wife pointed out that now would be a good time to install the new Point of Sale system we've been looking at and upgrade our website and webstore. My response was, "Are you kidding me? Where are we going to find the time to do...oh, yeah, good idea." 

When it is done it should be excellent but these kinds of roll-outs take time especially when the developer is in New Zealand which is a day ahead of us and 2pm here is 7am there and we are switching from a glorious complete Mac environment to a Windows 10 machines.

Because of those projects I'm behind on this post and the A to Z Challenge.

Eight years. I didn't have any clue I'd still be doing these posts (though at a much slower pace) in 2020. Oh, by the way, Fuck 2020.

A lot has happened in those eight years. I've had a daughter, buried my Dad, moved my Mom in with us. Found three really great RPG groups, had a nervous breakdown, homeschooled our Son through high school and into being an Engineering undergrad (my wife should get most of that credit), published some vanity projects, and gotten older but hopefully a bit wiser.

I have no idea what 2028 will hold...I mean, Krakatoa erupted two days ago...Fuck 2020 (its only May)! But I hope we are all here to do this again.

I don't know if I'll finish the A to Z Challenge this year. I used to love it, but that was a younger more naive version of me and I'm just not feeling it. But back in 2012, it was just what I needed to start this thing moving.

Since we are under Social Distancing my 2d20 Playtest game wrapped and that group is now playing a sequel to the Vampire: Masquerade 5th Edition game online (though I haven't made the first two sessions). 

Our Friday DM wasn't sure about using Roll20 so I started a 10th level D&D 5th Edition game and we just wrapped up our third session. It's going pretty well and last session tentacles from a rift "surrounded by chaotic energy" abducted Istus, the Greyhawk Goddes of Fate, whom the players had Called before closing. Its a long story. I'll get to it soon, I promise. I will say that the campaign is based on a Savage World Campaign I've wanted to run for nearly two decades.

Meanwhile, I've reconnected with some old friends, Mikey, Mark, Jackie, and Jayson (and I might even get my wife to play) and we are playing a D&D 5E game that started at 1st level and we have our second session this Monday. The first session was great as the players chose diplomacy over fighting in every encounter. I'll get to sharing that eventually, as well.

I've learned quite a bit about Roll20 and like it, but one of my players is trying to get me to give Fantasy Grounds a spin. If you've played on both or prefer one over the other please leave a comment as I'd love to hear from you.

I'm going to take a moment to toot my own horn. As of today, Cross Planes has over 1.7 million views! I never, in my wildest dreams, thought I'd reach that milestone. So thank you, all of you, for putting up with me and checking in on me.

Wednesday, April 8, 2020

A to Z of My D&D Campaign: C is for the Castellan Keep




The Keep on the Borderlands. 

Castellan Keep. 

It is a lonely, alluring, exciting, and terrifying place.

The kind of place that calls to Adventurers, Mercenaries, and Blackguards.

You can make a name for yourself at the Keep and your actions will dictate whether you achieve fame or infamy.

The Keep is a tiny shard of Law trying, valiantly, to keep the Chaos that surrounds it at bay. 

There are strange caves, tracks of blasted earth, mysterious hermits, and even a dungeon or two within a short ride.

It is a place to make a new start or an early end.

The War may be over, but the battle is joined. 

Just remember to return to the Keep before nightfall.

Sunday, April 5, 2020

A to Z of My D&D Campaign: B is for the Broken Lands



The Broken Lands, as published for the DnD Rules Cyclopedia, was home to the Orcs of Thar and was North East of the Republic of Darokin.

For the purposes of my Campaign, it is now wedged North of the Grand Duchy of Karameikos between Rockhome and the Emirates of Ylaruam. Thar was not an evil nation filled with evil Orcs and Goblinoids. It was a thriving experiment of how the Orcish people could form a nation and build treaties with their surrounding neighbors. Except Alfheim, the Elves to their West always distrusted them and came to despise any nation that dealt with Thar.

Thar was the name of the visionary and brilliant Orc who united his people all across the face of the continent of Brun and built a nation that stood as an equal to its fellow nations. Three-Hundred years later, Thar was a bastion of commerce, discipline, and expression. Not only did Thar welcome other Races inside its borders but by following their Founder's teachings Orcs were welcomed elsewhere, as well.

It was Thar that was attacked on the 11th night of Thaumont by Archon Dryden'Octrar and her Blood-Red Legion. While, Alfheim claimed that Crown-Prince Ugar Tharreign had abducted Nephilim Sora'Tra for nefarious purposes. Archon Dryden acted on behalf of the Nephilim's mother, Hekate Olora'Nokt, a powerful Wytch and former lover.

Thar's allies in the Grand Duchy and the Emirates sprung to their defense and soon Darokin and the Five Shires joined with Alfheim while Earthome sold weapons to both sides.

The War lasted five years and only ended because Darokin and the Five Shires chose to changed allegiances after the Tarrasque was summoned in Tharza, the Orc nation's capital. The battle against the Tarrasque lasted forty-seven days and scarred the land with constantly shifting grounds due to ever-present earth tremors, volcanoes spewing forth lava or noxious gases, geysers, scalding mud pits, and dust storms. The air is heavy with the fumes blown from sulphuric puddles and fissures venting often toxic gases from deep underground. The climate is equally as fierce with the surface being blasted by the sun throughout summer or frozen by fierce winds during winter. On top of this savage landscape, monsters roam the land and are hypothesized to be the creation of some of the terrible magic that was used during the War.

However, Thar's inhabitants refuse to give up on their home and have founded New Tharza on the ruins of Anram, which was sacked by Typhon Ergar'Dunn, also known as the Grim Elf of Feador.

The Broken Lands are a daily reminder of what the people of Brun are capable of both good and bad.

A to Z of My D&D Campaign: A is for All Along the Watchtower




I'm running late with the Blogfest but I think this would be both a good exercise and a distraction.

This year I'm doing the A to Z of the DnD Campaign I start running tomorrow night on Roll20. This Campaign is being played by some dear old friends who I rarely get to see. They are wonderful friends, the type of friends that you might not see in a few years but you pick back up as soon as you are around each other. True friends. Well be running DnD 5E and we are starting at 1st level.

A is for All Along the Watchtower.

Its the name of the Campaign on Roll20. 

I've chosen to set the game in Mystara and at least the first several levels will be in and around the Keep on the Borderlands, also known as Castellan Keep, which is on the North-Eastern edge of the Grand Duchy of Karameikos.

In my version of Mystara Karameikos has recently finished a terrible war with Alfheim and Darokin to its East which drew in Rockhome, the Five Shires, Thar, and the Emirates of Ylaruam.  Alfheim, in a last and desperate bid to shatter the enemy nations that surrounded it summoned the Tarrasque and watched its enemies and their entire world tremble. It took forty-seven days to defeat the monstrosity and in the end, the Broken Lands* were all that remained of the homeland of the Orcs of Thar.

Its been two years since the end of the War. The Occupation of Alfheim gets more and more complicated each day as the Church of Zinzerena wages a guerilla war against the Confederacy while also rounding up the Archons of Lolth.

Many who fought in the War simply want to forget and Castellan Keep is a good place to do so. There are ample opportunities in the Altan Tepes Mountain range and the Borderlands between the Grand Duchy, the Emirates, and the Broken Lands.

The Keep and even the Borderlands is a fresh start away from the War and its horrors. There are cairns and hidden tombs to plunder, pilgrims to protect from monsters, and land to settle.

*For the record, the Broken Lands are actually North East of Darokin, but for my purposes, they are what remains of Thar after the Tarrasque was finally stopped and take up a portion of Rockhome and the Emirates. That's the beauty of DnD and RPGs in general, I can stand on the shoulder of Giants and still make their works my own.

Friday, March 20, 2020

GameStorming: HELL WOOD



I take a vacation and we have a pandemic.

I hope all of you are well. Thankfully, at the moment the only thing I have to worry about is finding toilet paper. I kid. There is none. Ha!

First, let me share how disappointed I am with myself. I've spent 47 years consuming Apocalyptic comic books, movies, and literature and I am not prepared for it. If it goes to Hell, I'm like one of the straights you see in the stories. If I make it through this, I promise I'll do better.

Second, let's contemplate Apocalyptic stories for a moment. I know that California just got locked down an that is what gave me the idea for this setting.

Imagine Hollywood, with its super-wealthy and their various personal security. Now, let's step into things and assume, just for fun, that they are all highly motivated to be in charge of the only place that matters to them, Hollywood. It isn't organized crime or gangs the people of L.A. have to worry about its Celebrities, Politicians, Athletes, Tech Barons, and Captains of Industry and their competing visions of running their world, the only one that matters to them. We're talking Villains with crazy wardrobes, millions of Followers, and crazier plastic surgery. We're talking more money than sense with lots of drugs, guns, and explosives. We're talking fortress mansions, behavior modification via social media, and egos the size of...well California. We're talking Hell wood. They Live meets Pulp Fiction meets Heat

Wednesday, March 4, 2020

Theros for Dungeons & Dragons 5th Edition or F&%$@ Y*% WotC



Sometime in the last two months Wizards of the Coast announced the release of the Wildemont setting book for DnD by Matt Mercer. The internet, being the internet, exploded with people bitching because they weren't getting Greyhawk or Spelljamer or Mystara and Matt, being apparently the niced guy in the world, APOLOGIZED that WotC was printing his setting. Let me go on record and say that if WotC did not publish Wildemont then their CEO should be fired by the Board of Hasbro and it's shareholders. Critical Role is, in my opinion, at least 40% of the success of DnD 5E.

I don't even watch Critical Role and I feel this way (I can barely eek out two hours a week to watch TV, let alone 4 hours of other people role playing when I'm not).

However, WotC, being WotC, just announced Theros, a setting for Magic: the Gathering, to be released this Summer.

And you know what? FUCK. THAT.

When Theros releases we will have had three setting books in fairly quick succession and four total. Magic: the Gathering, I'm sorry, Magic: the FUCKING Gathering will account for 50% of those settings. The M:tG group spent nearly two decades not wanting to "dilute" it's brand by having a crossover with DnD and now their planes are 1/2 of DnD 5E's settings?!?!

I know enough about M:tG to know that Ravnica was a very popular plane and a cool urban setting for DnD. Theros isn't Ravnica, it's just not.

It's time to sell us a classic setting. Even if you have to PAY Critical Role to run a campaign in it WotC, give us something from the history of DnD instead of the history of M:tG.

You've been warned.

Monday, March 2, 2020

Valor Knights The Electrocube War from Bloat Games: More Than Meets The Eye



As soon as I saw that Eric Bloat was Kickstarting a 'Zine RPG inspired by Transformers, I backed it ASAP. First, because Eric makes GREAT games and second, because Optimus Prime, Soundwave, Ravage, Shockwave, Blue Streak, Jetfire, Starscream, Blaster, Laserbeak, Rumble, and Metroplex.

I grew up loving Transformers and there was no way I was going to miss out on it.

Here is the coolest part, the KS finished like last week and I've already got the PDF. I'm hoping it will be on sale pretty soon so that I can direct you where to buy it.

Valor Nights the Electrocube War uses the same system as the excellent Blackest of Deaths and I just love it. I've read through it once and it nails Transformers pretty darn well. You can't buy it yet, but when you can you should do so IMMEDIATELY.

Until then, Valor Knights, roll out.

Monstrous Monday: Traeger for TinyD6





Traeger for TinyD6

HP: 6 (High)
Description: Silent, highly intelligent, and solitary hunters that prowl the night. Doctor Killian G'har has theorized that the Traeger is millions of years old and was either engineered or altered by the First Ones to caul the rebellious members of the Intifada.
Traits:
• Bite (Melee Attack): Test with Advantage against an
   enemy within five feet of you. 
• Darkfighter
• Opportunist









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Sunday, March 1, 2020

Tiny Frontier, Stars Without Number, and Traveller



After the most recent session of my Star Wars Storm Trooper Mini-Campaign a few weeks ago, I felt that maybe Tiny Frontier wasn't robust enough for what I was looking for and I've spent the last couple of weeks reading Stars Without Number, Mongoose's Traveller 2E and Cepheus Light.

I really enjoyed converting the characters to SWN and I think they are very flavorful. I'm not sure if I will use them when we get to the next chapter, but I really enjoyed the conversion process.

Discovering that SWN's skill system was based on Traveller, I decided to finally give those games a look (when I was coming up Traveller: The New Era was the big thing, GURPS Traveller never grabbed me, and Mark Miller's Traveller 4 just wasn't what I was looking for). 

I think my favourite out of the bunch is Cepheus Light (though Cepheus Quantum is pretty cool too), but I found an amazing Star Wars Fan Supplement for MGT2 that is very well done.  However, when I started making characters I was unimpressed. Character Creation was a bit of chore and the characters are underwhelming and fairly indistinct. I'm sure to some degree it's because I'm running a Storm Trooper game, but it just left me cold.

What drew me to TinyD6 for these one-shots in the first place was that Traits were a straight-forward way to easily and quickly distinguishing the Troopers from one another.

One thing my group and I talked about after our latest session was that I rarely had them roll standard (2d6) checks. I was always granting Disadvantage or focusing on a Trait's Advantage. So that is something I plan to work on in the future.

I think at this point I might just stick with Tiny Frontiers and give the system more time to breathe and for me to master it a bit more.

My Gaming ADD is pretty high right now and I'm trying to reinforce to myself that it's not the system, but the group that makes things fun. TinyD6 is a pretty awesome system with great support.

Thursday, February 27, 2020

Star Wars: The High Republic



Disney/Lucasfilm announced Star Wars the High Republic recently. It looks like a full-on media blitz and I wonder if the next film trilogy won't be set in this time period.

One quote worries me, "Being able to tell stories of Jedi and Padawans in the height of their power? And not in a time when we know that everything is going to be tragic? This is really exciting. This is the golden era!".

First, creators have been telling stories in the Knights of the Old Republic for quite some time. Is that no longer canon? Why do Star Wars Reps seem to forget all the directions its story has been taken?

Second, everything IS going to be tragic. 200 years from this point the Jedi are blind to the threat of Darth Sidious and ill-prepared to serve the Republic they are sworn to protect.

Third, where is Yoda? He's, what, 800 years old?

I don't mean to be critical. I loved the Mandalorian and I enjoyed the Rise of Skywalker even though it makes zero sense.

I just get worried that these companies produce these stories, take our money, erase those stories, and then expect us not to remember those stories.

I really hope this is awesome. I really do.

But why can't we focus on the future of a galaxy, far, far away?

Why do we keep returning to the past?

Just as I wanted more movies featuring Han, Luke, Chewie, and Leia, I want more movies featuring Rey, Finn, and Rose (I can do without Poe, but whatever). Why introduce us to those characters if we aren't going to watch them for the next few years?

Obviously, I'll check this out and hope its excellent. But I'm a bit gunshy these days. Out of the last eight films made, I've really only had one (Rogue One) that completely worked for me. Maybe it's me? I keep thinking that George made movies for kids and if that's the case, I can tolerate that.

May the Force Be With You.




Tuesday, February 25, 2020

New Release: PunkApoclyptic the RPG by Schwalb Entertainment



PunkApocalyptic the RPG is the third Kickstarter I've backed from Robert Schwalb and Schwalb Entertainment. This KS promised the rewards by October of 2020, I got the PDF today. All of Rob's Kickstarters have been like this. I'm making my way through the rules, which has some differences from Shadow of the Demon Lord, but if you know how to play Shadow then you know how to play PunkApocalyptic.

 If you get a chance, check it out on DriveThruRPG, you will be glad you did.

PS - If all goes well, hopefully, Rob will KS Shadow of the Mad Mage later this year. Mad Mage uses the SotDL engine and is an ode to Greyhawk. You should back it when it launches.

Monday, February 24, 2020

Monstrous Monday: Xemnu the Living Titan for White Star



XEMNU THE LIVING TITAN for White Star


Armor Class: 5 [14]
HDE: 6/400
Total Hit Bonus: +6
Movement: 12
Special: Meditations 
Attack: Unarmed (2d6)
Hit Dice: 6
Saving Throw: 13

Xemnu may use the following Mediations charm person 4 x Day, manipulate object 1 x Day, confusion 2 x Day, telekinesis 2 x Day.

"Xenmu was one of several inmates on an "exile world" until he snuck past several guards and onto a supply ship. The hijacked craft was only capable of bearing him half of the way home, however, and he has been forced to find another way home."

Ascendant, A New Super Hero RPG is Coming to Kickstarter Very Soon


Yesterday, I discovered that Autarch would be launching a Kickstarter for a new Super Hero RPG, Ascendant, before the end of this month.

Immediately, I wondered if it would be based on Adventurer, Conqueror, King, and Alexander Macris, Autarch's owner, and Ascendant's author was kind of enough to confirm that "No, it's built on an entirely new core that uses logarithmic math. Imagine a hybrid of FASERIP and MEGS."

Then, he was kind enough to give me a preview and I was completely sold within a few pages. All I can say is that if you are a big fan of Marvel Super Heroes (FASERIP) or DC Heroes (MEGS) then you are going to fall in love with Ascendant. Alexander's new game fixes the problems I have with both MSH and DCH and I think the whole project is ingenious.

I don't know exactly when Ascendant will launch this month, but I urge you to back it when the Kickstarter launches.




Friday, February 21, 2020

Star Wars: Storm Trooper PC's for Stars Without Numbers



I've been reading through Stars Without Numbers 2nd Edition and converting the Storm Trooper pre-generated Player Characters from Tiny Frontiers to SWN.

Tiny Frontiers is much faster at making characters. An average pre-gen took me less than five minutes while converting the "spirit" of a single PC to SWN takes over half an hour, minimum. I'm not complaining, but it reinforced my decision to run a one-shot with low prep using TinyD6.

I've learned a lot about Stars Without Numbers by making these PCs so that is a pleasant side effect.

I've posted a PDF of the Pre-gens on Dropbox if anyone is interested.  Here is the link.

Tuesday, February 18, 2020

Stars Without Numbers: Argo'Mir, a Planet in the Star Wars Galaxy



Stars Without Numbers seems to be that rare game that seems to be universally praised and since I'm in the mood for Sci-Fi, I thought I'd play around with using its tags to build a world.

Rolling randomly I get Anthropomorphs and Seagoing Cities.

For Anthropomorphs, I'm going to use Things Shrine to Darth Davos (A Feral Deity).

For Seagoing Cities, I'm going to use Complications The Amnion Sea is rife with glelgae, a necessary component of bacta (Seas That Are Not Water).

The Atmosphere is a Breathable Mix.

The Temperature is Temperate or Earth-like.

The Biosphere is No Native Biosphere.

The Population is equal to an Outpost.

The Tech Level is Modern Postech for the Star Wars galaxy.

The Origin of Argo'Mir involves Darth Davos bringing his creations, the Mir, to its shores.

The Curren Relationship of Argo'Mir with the Galactic Empire is volatile due to the Empire's views on non-humans and their need for bacta (Cultural Disgust and Avoidance).

The Contact Point is Lucerne (the Seagoing City) and it trades processed glelgae (a Vital Good) with the Galactic Empire.

So in less than 30 minutes, I've worked up a setting for a future adventure and seamlessly integrated it into my expanding story for this mini-campaign I'm running using one-shots.

Star Wars: Str'Owl for Stars Without Number



Str'Owl for Stars Without Number

HD: 2
AC: 14
Atk: +2

Dmg: 1d10
Move: 20m
Morale: 8
Skill: +1

Save: 14+

Str'Owls are not native to Pha and the Galactic Empire believes that they were brought to the icy planet within the last 200 years. They mate for life, generally producing one owlet, and hunt in family units.



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Monday, February 17, 2020

Star Wars: The Ice Planet Pha using Tiny Frontiers



I ran my second one-shot where the players are Imperial Storm Troopers using Tiny Frontiers and set in the Star Wars Galaxy.

The session opened as the Interdictor the Troopers are stationed on, the Inferno, had rendezvoused with Vader's Super Star Destroyer, the Executor, and Admiral Thrawn's Star Destroyer, the Invader

It had been nearly a month since their mission on Boontu and the scuttlebutt had it that Project Menagerie was something Vader had been keeping under wraps and the Emperor had sent Thrawn to find out what was so important to his Apprentice.

The Troopers work directly for the twins, Uriel and Ariel Gonzaga, who head up Project Menagerie.

Apparently, they had a new lead and were heading to the Outer Rim to the ice-planet Pha.

There were some concerns because Pha had been the site of a fairly massive Droid construction facility for the Separatist Army and not everyone was sure it had been shut down.

The Troopers had more important things to deal with than Droids however and they headed for the coordinates that the Twins had given them. There was a strange radio interference within about 5 miles of their destination so they took to speeder bikes. As they were close to hitting the radio-free zone a warning being sent out was cut off. Dav began to head out of the zone to finish the message when two str'owls, giant owls, attacked them. The firefight was fairly short and the tracker that was added to their group, Payt, convinced them not to kill one of the str'owls as it fled on foot.

As they moved on, it became apparent that their coordinates were around a large ridgeline that dominated the frozen tundra.

The team stopped about 100 yards from a large cave on the east side of the ridgeline and used optics to determine that there were several large, bipedal creatures living in that cave.

Meanwhile, from the west a trio of bundled up humanoids where wind-skiing toward them. The trio introduced themselves as Gurney, Viticus, and Lora, natives to Pha (imagine Tusken raiders living on Hoth). They attempted to do some trading with the Troopers and revealed that the cave was the lair of several wampas (shocker, right?) and that droidekas, leftover from when the Droid facility was active, still patrolled this part of the tundra.

After a bit of talking and trading a roar was heard from the cave and the trio headed out back to the east. The trooper decided they'd rather try to distract the wampas than to battle them if at all possible. This led Dav and Mik to drag the carcass of the dead str'owl towards their cave and then to book it out of there. The wampas caught the bird's scent and four of them went out to start enjoying their meal.

The Troopers headed to the mouth of the cave, concealed their bikes then headed in. After, a few hundred feet the cave divided with one tunnel heading the right and another to the left. At this time, Mat noticed a scanner built into the right side of the cave, just before the right-hand tunnel but was too late to stop it from scanning them. Within a few minutes, a spherical droid came flying down the right-hand tunnel and was destroyed fairly easily. Payt installed a portable camera at the beginning of the right-hand tunnel and they followed it until it led to a large blast door. After a few minutes, the Troopers bypassed the door and entered a ship, based on some preliminary data, Dav belived it to be a Mandalorian Reaver Class destroyer that was used, primarily, over 600 years ago. 

As they followed the corridor they came to an area that had two apparent statues in Mandalorian beskar and corridors allowing them to continue straight on with red tile on the floor, to the right with green tile on the floor, and to the left with blue tile on the floor.

They chose the right and soon came to another door that they were able to bypass. Within the green chamber, they found four bacta tanks, one had a wookie, one had a trandoshan, one was empty, one had been shattered, the bacta long evaporated, with a small skeleton lying in front of it, and a large control center in the middle of the room.

The Troopers soon realized the wookie and trandoshan were being kept alive and began then began to explore the databanks of the terminal. Soon, they discovered that this vessel's name was the Carnifex and that it was owned by a legendary Mandalorian known as Myrmidon Lhao who disappeared with a precious Mandalorian artifact as he fled Talos the Devourer. It was at this point where the terminal demanded the appropriate passcode.

The Troopers had a boosted data uplink they had installed immediately upon entering the room and quickly contacted the Inferno for help. They were soon surprised to discover they were talking directly to Ariel who had several very pointed questions about the layout of the room. Based on her questions she gave them a passcode that worked.

It was at this point that Payt's camera revealed three wampas entering the tunnel leading to the Carnifex and the Troopers began trying to formulate a plan. Using the terminal they watched as the wampas headed for the red tunnel and as they passed the mandalorian "statues" followed them to a door that began an automated unlock sequence.

Ariel saw the activity on the cameras as well and urged the Troopers to prevent those creatures from entering the room at the end of the red corridor.

A major firefight ensued and they discovered the wampas attacking them were actually droids Things got dire when Mik went down and Dav took a major wound, using sheer willpower to stay on his feet.

Ariel began screaming at them as one wampa and the Mandalorians gained entrance into the red room. Dav asked her to calm down and Mat used this time to patch up Mik and Dav both and they watched as the empty bacta filled and a clone began growing.

The Troopers took a tactical position in front of the red room and discovered the strange relief of a Mandalorian surrounded by four Mandalorian "statues" and the last wampa.


Ariel informed them that thermal detonators were not an option because that relief is what she needed. After another intense battle, the Troopers claimed victory. They searched the blue corridor, which led to the Carnifex's cockpit and after an exhaustive search found the hilt of one of the energy swords that they were attacked with on the last mission.

Ariel and Uriel were uncharacteristically excited when they reached the Carnifex and asked Dav to kill the growing clone. The Twins even took the time to explain that the location of the Carnifex proved their theory and that Lord Vader would very excited for their findings. They also explained that they were solving the mystery of a strange being discovered forty years ago.

They promised metals for the Troopers.

Out of game, I'm not sure about the TinyD6 system. On one hand it is perfect for a fill-in one-shot and is great with a setting like this to add some specialization to the Storm Troopers, I'm not sure, for instance, if White Star would do that as well.

However, it almost feels like TinyD6 is somtimes merely a dice game and it has a pretty large whiff factor.

In all fairness, I might not be at my best as a Game Master and that could have some effect on my criticisms. While I freely admit I'm rusty, I've felt this way after three sessions (one Tiny Dungeons and two Tiny Frontiers).

What does that mean?

It means I might run the next one-shot using Stars Without Numbers or an OSR-inspired system I've been developing.

I don't which way I'm going to go, but I do know I want to try a different system next time.

Saturday, February 15, 2020

Blackest of Deaths: Arachnofuge



Arachnofuge for the Blackest of Deaths
Fast spider-like predators, about the size of a dog, that have the intelligence of a pig.



HP: 8
Evade: 14
Armor Point: 0
Bonus: +1 to Attack
Attack: Bite (1d6-1)
Special: Advantage on checks related to acrobatics and climbing.

Number Appearing: 1d6+2

Wednesday, February 12, 2020

Tiny Supers: Minuteman

Art by Storn Cook


Minuteman (Controller)
Stress Capacity: 5

Traits
Crowd Control
Super Speed (Tier 1)
Snare (Tier 1)
Phasing (Tier 1, he can only phase through objects while moving)

Power Origin
Enhanced (Lab Accident)

Weakness
Libby Lawrence

Weapons
Light Melee (Unarmed)

Belief
There is Always Time for Justice!

Erik Feist is Pre-Med at Queen City University and was interning at CHON, a bio-tech firm, when the supervillain Saturn attacked the lab searching for a cure to his wife's cancer. During Saturn's search, his powers caused a container of Caduscea Plus to explode and bathed Erik in the experimental prototype.

Erik was in a coma for sixteen days and when he finally came too he was greeted by his Mom and Dad and girlfriend Libby.

When he got out of the hospital he slowly discovered his super speed powers and within a month created the Minuteman identity. 

He has spent the last 6 months protecting the city from the likes of Dr. Kaiju, Orion Major, and the shadowy cabal known as Malefactor.

He does his best to balance his studies, fighting crime, and making time for Libby and his family. Its a lot easier to do when you can run fast enough to phase through matter.



A Manifesto

Recently, a game designer, publisher, blogger, and Ennie winner posted a Manifesto about how to play Dungeons & Dragons on Twitter. ...