Wednesday, December 31, 2014

GM Wednesday! - Travel and Gear


I'm still borrowing heavily from DtotSL. It's weapons don't have AP simply because there is only one armor that would make a difference (basically full body stormtrooper armor). It neatly explains the reason that sci-fi heroes don't trudge around in body armor (besides the obvious reason, like why we don't leave home in body armor) and it simplifies my homework. Well played Wiggy.

I also like the Wrist Computers rules and will be rolling it in. Honestly it seems all I am doing is adding some fluff to DTotSLs, but I'm good with that. This is what a toolkit system like Savage Worlds is supposed to do, give me options that I can use without having to houserule or invent systems myself.

Stuff I am adding...
  • DTotSL uses the stats from modern firearms for their Blasters, removing the AP since it really is unnecessary to keep track of. I added in the shotgun stats re-labeled as the Disintegrator Rifle, because why not?
  • I am yoinking melee weapon modifications from the SFC, but only Stun and Power Weapon. No beam sabers. I'm not copying Star Wars. Are melee weapons useful? You betcha. There are planets that won't tolerate a hero wearing a blaster on his hip as you get closer to the core.


So how long does it take to jump from one system to another? Who cares? I don't want my players bogged down with the minutiae of supplies and fuel unless it's pertinent to the story.

Sorry for the light and late post, but between the fallout of the accident and the holidays I haven't had much personal time.

Sunday, December 28, 2014

Christmas Sucking Spectacular

So my Christmas was majorly eventful, ergo my motorcycle accident, my wrecked bike, and Geico giving me the run around.

However, my girlfriend gave me an awesome present for Xmas, namely a MAN CAVE (some assembly required). We're talking paint, furniture, big-screen TV, and sound system. She also put most of it together since I was pretty banged up from the accident.

She runs a home improvement blog called Some Assembly Inspired. Click the link and you can see the event unfold.

There may not be an update this Wednesday since my break was about assembly and recuperation. I'll see what I can cobble together.

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Drive Safely

My scooter. My beloved scooter. Your 400cc badassdom has been reduced to 500 pounds of scrap thanks to a careless driver making a left turn in front of me.

Please drive safe out there, and wear a helmet. Even if you're in a car. Helmets are cool.

Fortunately I was able to walk away from this one.

It's Christmas!

Silly kids. Shouldn't you be playing?

Monday, December 22, 2014

Not Game Related, Just Pandora

Yup, my crotchety old self has just got online with that new-fangled Pandora doo-hickey.

I've been using it to re-discover the music of the eighties, back when songs had fun and before everyone jumped on the Kurt Cobain depression-wagon.

It occurs to me that that listening to oldies is way better than listening to today's radio. I'm not saying music to day sucks (even though I'm thinking it) but when you listen to modern stations on the radio it feeds you what's trending right now. It gives you the musical depth of maybe a year or two if you're lucky. But if you go onto Pandora and pick 80's pop, or Classic Heavy Metal, you get an entire decade or two of hits. Thousands of songs distilled to get rid of the garbage but leaving enough good stuff that you can go a good long time without hearing the same song.

It's a good time to be getting old.

Happy Holidays, and get off my lawn.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Thursday's Rant is Full of Wha?

I apparently have one of those brains that doesn't like to stay focused on what I want it to do.

Here I am chugging away on my sci-fi setting. I've got the most of the nuts and bolts out of the way like gear, starship combat, races, overall feel. So I decided to sit down and start writing some adventure hooks for it. I couldn't come up with any that were interesting. In fact they were trite, boring, simplistic and cliched.

I did come up with about six adventure hooks for a fantasy game.

Apparently my brain wants to run fantasy at the moment. I wonder if there's something about sci-fi that's cause my brain to lock up. Maybe I've been emotionally scarred by the cancellation of Firefly, the depression of the new BSG, and the horrible travesty of SyFy's Flash Gordon (well, everything on SyFy actually).

So I'm going to take a break on the sci-fi until I recharge my mojo on it and I'll run some of these Fantasy Adventure hooks instead.

I'm looking at fleshing out about ten of them. If I finish them in time, look forward to a new Free Stuff Friday!

GM Wednesday! - Starships

We focus so much on rocketship style designs in sci-fi fantasy and then complain about how they are just unrealistic analogs of sea-going battleships. Which makes me wonder, "Why aren't we using saucers?" ~ Me.

Starships may not be the focus of gameplay, but they are a huge part of the setting. What's more they require their own special rules systems.

I've been puttering around, looking at how the Sci-Fi Companion, Slipstream, Daring Tales of the Space Lanes, and even 50 Fathoms handles ship combat. Only one fit the bill of what I want.

I wanted to avoid any new rules or subsystems as much as possible. KISS (Keep It Simple, Stupid) is the order of the day and while I like the Sci-Fi Companion, I think it added too much complexity in a Savage Worlds game. So I am going with Daring Tales of the Space lanes Starship supplement (which I already own). Wiggy approached each genre with KISS in mind when he did his Daring Tales series and if you haven't checked them out, you should (I have links on the Free Stuff page).

I also chose DTotSL because it makes operating the shields an active task rather than flipping a switch. I want starship combat to be a team effort and the more stations available to players to choose from, the less likely that someone will be twiddling their thumbs while the pilot does all of the work.

I considered possibly building my own system to handle starships but I don't have that kind of time and I don't want to go through a lot of revisions as mistakes come out in gameplay.

So the feel I am going for in my ship combat is less Star Wars and more Star Trek, less WWII and more "Age of Discovery/ Piracy'. So no starfighters, nothing smaller than a shuttle. The reasons for this are...

  • Starfighters encourage splitting the party.
  • FTL is a big part the game and who wants to spend a week in a tiny cockpit, let alone how would you fit an FTL drive into something that small.
  • I want more of an 'age of piracy' feel to travel and combat than a 'World War II' feel. Imagine Star Wars during the age of piracy with Luke Skywalker attacking an Imperial Man o' War in his Incom T65 Dinghy.
  • Everybody does starfighters.
  • I've been reading projections of what real space combat will be like and while reality isn't something I'm striving for, most experts agree that a manned starfighter is a fairly useless thing.
It was that last bit that got me thinking about sci-fi without the starfighters. It started to feel more retro, more Flash Gordon and Commander Cody. I liked the idea.

And in searching the web for a "free to reuse" spaceship image, I came across that flying saucer cross section. Maybe it is time to bring that design back and kick the rockets to the curb. 

Extra rules I'm adding: 
  • Heavy Weapons ignore standard armor (honestly I'm surprised this isn't in the RAW).
  • I'm using my simplified ranges instead of the ranges listed for weapons in DTotSL. My conversion is <48=Medium, <96=Long, <200=Extreme.

Saturday, December 13, 2014

The Name Game

I really should name this campaign setting.

I've been mulling it over. What would sound good for a space fantasy romp like this. Believe it or not most of the good names I came up with are taken already. Others seem pretentious like "Ocean of Stars". I'm not making a setting about majesty and poetry. I'm making a setting about the nutty dregs of the universe.

So I'm thinking of going with Savage Spacepunk.

People seem to think the suffix -punk means technology these days with the popularity of Cyberpunk and now Steampunk. But when it was first coined for Cyberpunk, it was focusing on the "punk" as in the anti-establishment views and music. I think that in those terms, Spacepunk fits for my setting.

So now I have a title. If I choose to release this as a fan PDF I may have to clean out the bits I'm borrowing from other Savage Worlds books or get the permissions of the companies to reprint them.

I should really start working on a cover too.

Friday, December 12, 2014

Simplified Ranges - Addendum

Just FYI, it seems I am not the first to come up with this idea. I was looking through some Savage Star Trek adaptions and Mike Callahan also had the idea in his Red Alert starship combat rules.

So once again, I am scooped. Still, credit where credit is due.

(And in case you haven't picked up the hint, next week's post is all about starships).

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

GM Wednesday! - Races

Last week we did a rough sketch of the setting basics. 

Now it's time to fill in the details a bit more. Let's look at some key Sci-Fi setting tropes and figure out if I want them in my game or not.


Yes please. But as stated, I'm not going for avant-garde sci-fi here. I want to capture the whimsicality of space pulp. That means most aliens will be humanoid in design or be based on terrestrial animal traits. There may be some truly alien creatures that the heroes run across in their adventures, but it's unlikely that the heroes will be talking to them or relating to them in any way. That's what being truly alien is. If a flower starts talking to you in a British accent, it takes away a lot of the mystery.

So we're talking fur suits and rubber foreheads. And although they may not look exactly human, they'll act like us with the same virtues and vices.


Servant droids are a staple of 70-80's sci-fi, but it's also thinly disguised slavery. We accept it because we want to believe that droids will never be so sophisticated that we might think of them as a life form. Despite the fact that C-3PO made decisions, exhibited fear for his personal safety, and spoke just like a human...he was still property. Property that could easily pass the Turing test.

Well my initial concept said 70's-80's sci-fi, which blissfully ignored these issues.

And so will I.

However in keeping with the light-hearted feel of this game, I'm going to have to completely alter the racial traits that the sci-fi companion gives to Constructs. If you take a look at Kryten or Marvin, you'll realize that robots in whimsical sci-fi are nuerotic, and are frequently screaming in fear or perhaps boredom. They get Shaken, a lot. But if played right, a droid character could be hilarious. 

Rimmer ~ "Kryten, will it work?"
Kryten ~ "Lie mode... Of course, sir. No worries!"

Military Constructs will keep the +2 vs being shaken since they are meant to be simple-minded killing machines.


It actually isn't necessary to add humans as playable characters, and some interesting games might come of not having them at all (or making them all npc badguys). It all comes down to what your group wants to play. My old group considered excluding humans from science fantasy to be a cardinal sin, despite the fact that every one of them played alien characters in Star Wars the RPG.

I really don't want to deal with Earth and its development in this game. To me, Earth would only ground the game in our reality. Also I'm a little tired of the Ubiquitous humans making up over 60% of the known universe.

In this setting humans are a minority. In fact they are homeless vagabonds. We arrived in this new galaxy on slower than hell generation ships, leaving our doomed earth behind. How or why was it doomed? Ask three different Humans and you'll get 10 different stories. The fact is, nobody remembers.

As for that long journey, well it made humans a little nutty. We have a hard time with authority and sitting still. We don't eat our vegetables and wash behind our ears. We are the street trash of the Empire's "Polite" society.

So what I will need is...

  • A potential reworking of Humans, possibly adding in the Crude or Outsider Hindrance.
  • Rework the Constructs to be a bit more comical (except for military constructs which should be scary).
  • Rather than stat out every species in the universe, I'm going to go easy on my self and make some species templates (or likely add to the ones that already exist in the Sci-Fi Companion).

Speaking of the Sci-Fi Companion, you're probably asking "Why do you need to prep anything beyond the style of game you want? Won't the Sci-Fi Companion fill in all of the gaps?"

THE SFC is cool and I will borrow some stuff from it. However it is a generic book and includes a lot of things I don't want. Savage Worlds is a toolkit system where you can take and leave whatever you don't want.

What I want to do is present a booklet to my players that they can use where I don't have to keep saying "No, that's been cut from this game." and "No, we aren't doing that." It will help to keep the quibbling down and present a better picture to my players of what the setting is all about.

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Theater of the Mind - Simplified Ranges

As I get older or because of all the Pathfinder I have been playing, I feel the need to stay away from minis. I love painting them and I'm fine using them in games like Pathfinder where they are required, but I feel it actual limits the player's sense of imagination. I have discussed this before.

Star Wars Saga did something I thought was pretty neat. It didn't list weapon ranges for each weapon (in yards). They simplified the range of the weapons. In most rpgs, pistols might have slightly different ranges but there isn't enough difference to come up in game that often.

I intend to simplify ranges even further by figuring that distance, not weapon, is the deciding factor in how hard it is to hit a target. It may not be realistic, but it's plausible and it will allow me to make a simplistic "Theater of the Mind" range system.

So here are the ranges and their modifiers.

Range              Modifier        Distance
Point Blank          0                   <25 yards
Short                    0                    <50 yards
Medium               -2                   <100 yards
Long                    -4                   <200 yards
Extreme               -6                   <600 yards

Pistols have a Max Range of Medium
Shotguns have a Max Range of Medium
Rifles have a Max Range of Long
Sniper Rifles or Heavy Weapons have a Max Range of Extreme

A weapon cannot fire beyond its Max Range, unless they use a scope which will extend the range of a weapon by 1 increment while Aiming.

So now when we are playing, I can simply describe the villains at "Short Range" without getting into details about how many yards that is and what range is it for which gun. All modifiers are flat, based on distance to the target.

I'm incorporating this into my sci-fi setting. I like the Sci-Fi Companion but I feel that it is adding a lot of book keeping and specialty rules. I'm going to lean heavier on Daring Tales of the Space Lanes with its "K.I.S.S." mentality.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

GM Wednesday! - Setting Creation: Sci-Fi

the following series of posts was inspired by the fine folks over at Savage GM Hangouts who have decided to broadcast how they build campaign settings. Since I have run out of things to talk about, and since I work well under pressure, I've decided to go step by step through my own process of creating a setting. This will either give you a front seat to my nervous breakdown, or it will be really cool.

If it is neither then I think we will all be very disappointed.

First up...what do I want?

In other words, what kind of game setting will I have fun with. What sort of playground is going to hold my interest long enough to run a game beyond four or five sessions. What place will I create that I will want to keep coming back to, over and over again.

No pressure. 

In my case it's something like Star Wars with a dash of Red Dwarf. I'm looking for Sci-Fi that doesn't take itself too seriously. So I'm settling on Soft/Fantasy Sci-Fi, "have-blaster-will-Smeg" kind of fair.

Why? Because sci-fi used to be fun. Then Blade Runner came along and it seems everyone has been trying to out-do its dark and depressing tones. I loved Blade Runner, but the new BSG can go Smeg itself. It's time to take the pretentiousness down a notch.

Refining the Genre

Just saying Space Opera (or Space Fantasy) isn't quite enough. There are different feels of Sci-Fi fantasy, yes even the dark depressing feels.

  • Dystopian - Waaaaaah! I have a rocket pack but I've lost my soul. No thanks.
  • Transhuman - I can be a dolphin one day and a file in the Cloud the next. Who am I? Who are you? Are you sure? Not the feel I'm looking for.
  • Sword & Planet - It mostly takes the Fantasy genre to heart and adds guns and sky-ships. Cool but not what I'm looking for here.
  • Flash Gordon - This takes pulp down to its roots. I loved the movie from the eighties because it really captured the outrageousness of the original pulp. However it's a bit too outrageous for my tastes.
  • Early 1970's-1980's (I consider a genre unto itself) - Big hair, one-piece jumpsuits, space vixens, evil robots, starships that go "roooarrrwhooosh" in the vaccuum of space. Oh, hell yeah! I want this.

Now that I have a style in mind, it's time to examine the tropes that figure into my chosen genre. In other words what sorts of things would I like to see or happen in my little universe. For instance in this one I'll likely want...

  • Lawless frontiers
  • Overbearing government
  • Evil plans involving super-science
  • Science too dangerous for dimwits to wield.
  • Hives of scum and villainy
  • Alien monsters
  • Criminal syndicates
  • Rubber foreheads (the aliens aren't too alien)
  • Lost civilizations
  • Pirate rivalries
  • Space Vixens
  • Silly robots
  • Deep philosophical discussions about what was really in that bar glass that result in a three week long bar-brawl that migrates to other bars and....
Sorry, my mind was starting to get a little too detailed there.

One thing to remember is that Fantasy Sci-Fi derived from pulp tales of other genres. I can borrow tropes from Westerns, Fantasy, and Pirate movies and integrate them quite easily. And because I am not taking things too seriously, I can pull in sitcoms and teen PSAs if I want. Nothing is forbidden. I can even do a musical episode.

And finally I should figure out what the characters will be doing.

There are a couple of ways to approach this. One is to pitch the idea of running the genre by your players and discuss what they'd like to do there. Are the players more interested in...
  • ...playing spies working for a secret agency in the empire
  • ...rebels waging war against the empire
  • traders just getting into general mischief
  • ...barhopping tourists with really bad luck
Depending on your players they could find a cool angle for themselves in your campaign that you hadn't thought of.

Another way is to just decide for yourself what type of jobs the heroes will be doing and hope your players will dig it. The players I have had in the past were never too picky as long as I was running the game, but when asked they usually went for the Free Trader option.

Since I am prepping this in a vacuum, I'm going to go with the Free Trader angle. However, that means there will be a lot of "finding the job" scenes that could become tedious and repetitive. What if I went with the idea that the heroes are Free Traders, but they are also contractors for a private troubleshooting company. Whenever someone seeks out the company for help, the company acts as an employment agency, hiring out the contract to the right group in their files to tackle the problem. That means that the jobs can find the heroes even if they aren't looking in the right place.

What's more, this troubleshooter bureau isn't official so the local authorities won't recognize or aid these mercenary agents. In fact they'll likely do everything they can to hinder the agents. Maybe the reason that people flock to hiring troubleshooters is because the local authorities are so corrupt that they are charging exorbitant prices from the victims before they start investigating, thus the authorities are only interested in helping the rich. That fits with the oppressive government trope.

So to sum up...

  • I have a space fantasy setting involving cool starships, strange aliens and blasters
  • It will have that light-hearted, near comedic pulp adventure feel
  • And the heroes will be travelling around, solving problems with blasters and bombastity while dodging the corrupt and oppressive authorities, criminal syndicates, star zealots, and power grabbing secret societies

Next week we'll take a look at what I will need to make this setting a reality. What elements of Sci-Fi will I keep, and what am I going to toss?