Posted in: Dungeons and Dragons, Role Playing Games, Science Fiction, Star Trek, Star Wars

#RPGaDay2021 Day 29: System

Day 29: System

So when it comes to selecting a role playing system to play, which is better? Learning something new or going with a system you are already familiar with that has been adapted for the universe you want to play in?

For me, it’s sixes. Recently I had the option to play in an online game and the game master gave us the option of a D20 system (Starfinder) or something else. I don’t even really recall what the second option was because I was more worried about trying to learn how to use the online virtual table top application (another post for another day). While I was happy for the easy of the D20 system, I also discovered that Starfinder (and I later found out that Pathfinder was the same way) was just a little too crunchy for me. It seems like it has taken the Dungeons and Dragons 3.5 book and added way to many additional rules to the system.

On the other hand, the D20 based Star Wars RPG released in the early 2000’s didn’t really attract me at the time. I’m a big Star Wars fan, but I remember thinking that “Seeing Luke and company with D&D stats just seemed off.” I don’t know if it’s because of all the D6 Star Wars games that I had played, or that I just didn’t have the money at the time to buy another set of books. So I never got into the game at the time it was being published. If someone were to invite me to a game now, I’d take them up on the offer.

There are generic systems out there. I had played GURPS back in the early 90’s. It seemed ok at the time, but a lot of math. So it’s not one of my first choices. I just received Dune: Adventures in the Imperium for a birthday gift which is a 2d20 system like Star Trek Adventures. It’s been interesting to see the tweaks between the two rulebooks. (again another blog post will go into further details on this) The D6 system that was used in the WEG Star Wars system has been ported over to a series of generic RPG books. I could see myself using the D6 system for a classic Battlestar Galactica game.

I haven’t even scratched the surface on which systems have stood out to me or failed to grab my attention. There are just way to many out there. But I have tried a few. When I was going through my three-ringed binder of old characters, I noticed I had sheets for some games that I don’t even remember playing. I must not have been very impressed with the system if I can’t remember them now.

Final Thoughts:

All of the remaining dates in the challenge only have one suggestion for each day. It almost seemed like the list just sputtered out of ideas.

RPGaDay 2021 chart
The RPGaDay 2021 chart
Posted in: Role Playing Games, Science Fiction

#RPGaDay2021 Day 28: Solo

Day 28: Solo

I had previously posted about finding an old three-ringed binder full of past role playing game characters that I had been using in various games. I even posted a previous character on Day 3 of the #RPGaDAY2021 challenge. When I had created the spreadsheet in July with all of the terms for the challenge, I had an immediate typed in an entry for this day. I would post my Solo (think cyberneticaly enhanced soldier/fighter/mercenary) character from a past Cyberpunk game. So here is Edgerunner.

Cyberpunk character, Edgerunner
Cyberpunk character, Edgerunner
Cyberpunk character, Edgerunner
Cyberpunk character, Edgerunner

This was our gaming group’s first attempt in the cyperpunk genre. We had previously played Doctor Who, Star Wars, Vampire The Masquerade and DC Superheroes. One of the moments that I remember from the game was our attempt to escort a semi-truck full of valuable stuff from one city to another. The bad guys had launched a shoulder fired missile at the truck. In one of those “once-in-a-lifetime” rolls, I actually rolled high enough that my shot caused the missile to detonate by shooting at it. This was the group that was primarily gaming at the old Comics Utah stores when they were still around. I had a lot of fun with this group.

Final Thoughts:

It’s probably a good thing that the suggestions for this date was “Solo”. I really couldn’t have thought of anything for the other options. “Dream” could have come up with something. “Open” and “Delve” was very, very vague.

RPGaDay 2021 chart
The RPGaDay 2021 chart
Posted in: Doctor Who, Role Playing Games, Science Fiction, Star Trek

#RPGaDay2021 Day 24: Translate

Day 24: Translate

There are a lot of languages that can be used within different role playing games. Spies in a modern day espionage game may have to deal with the dialect of different nations. Races in both fantasy and science fiction genres have their own language. In some fantasy games, certain classes/occupations have their own languages such as Thieves’ Cant.

Most games state that there is a common language that everyone speaks as a first or second language. According to StatisticsAndData.org the number of people on Earth that speak English is 1.2 billion. The population of the planet is 7.8 billion. It would make sense that there would be different dialects even in a fantasy world or science fiction universe.

So how do Game Masters handle a language barrier? There are two different ways. Keep the difference in languages there as a possible role playing opportunity or introduce a translator option.

The language barrier can make for some interesting drama. Can you get American secret agent the message over to the Italian police officer that there really is a bomb in the van he’s been chasing? Some RPGs have language skill ratings, this could be a time to use it. If PCs and NPCs are talking in a language that other PCs don’t know, I’d recommend using notes to pass between the players that understand the language (as well as the GM). I understand one of the online virtual table top systems will allow you to type a message in English and have it translated into the language selected. Only those who have that language listed as a skill can read the text. There are different ways that this can be incorporated.

The automatic translator is also another option. Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy has the Babel Fish. The Farscape TV series uses translator microbes that are injected into the body which conducts the translations. While Star Trek introduced the translator as a piece of equipment in the 1960’s, a modern day version has already been developed. In Doctor Who, the TARDIS translates for the occupants. In one of the early episodes of season eleven, the Human companions were placed in medical pods. When the pod discovered that the occupants didn’t have a translator circuit installed, one was inserted into them. Several fantasy games have the equivalent of a “translate languages” spell, or one could be created very easily. Plus a translator could be hired by the party when entering a foreign land. This also creates another role playing opportunity.

Even if direct translations could be provided, there is still the issue with slang and metaphors. The Next Generation fifth season episode, Darmok, highlighted this challenge very well.

Just as the weather will always be spring like and sunny, different languages can be used to spice up a role playing game.

Final Thoughts:

Not really a bad crop of suggestions for the day. However I didn’t decide upon a topic until just before I started creating the blog post. “Ancient” could have talked about ancient civilizations in an exploring game. “Solve” could talk about different types of puzzles. I had nothing for “Share”.

RPGaDay 2021 chart
The RPGaDay 2021 chart
Posted in: Role Playing Games, Science Fiction

#RPGaDay2021 Day 20: Foundation

Day 20: Foundation

I love science fiction stories. They are the ultimate “What If” types of stories that still fit into the realm of possibilities. Where as a fantasy story has elements of things that would not exist (elves, dragons, magic, etc.), science fiction seems to be a story that could happen in our future (or even modern day). Not to say that fantasy stories are any less enjoyable, I just recognize the differences between the two closely aligned genres.

One book series that I have really enjoyed was The Foundation Series by Isaac Asimov. A good story and presentation will have me give high marks to an artistic work. But another of the indicators that I enjoyed a book/television show/movie/comic/etc. is if I think about what it would be like to participate in a role playing game based off of the source material. Even a bad movie like Battlefield Earth gave me RPG ideas afterwards. I remember getting RPG urges from Stargate SG-1 episodes just because of how well the stories and concepts were presented.

The Foundation Series had a very interesting concept that I wondered if it could be placed in a role playing game. Hari Seldon came up with a concept called Psychohistory in which he uses mathematical concepts to predict the future events of large populations. It couldn’t tell if someone was going to win the lottery, but it could predict what would happen to a galaxy spanning civilization over the course of decades and millenniums. The results were not good as it predicted the fall of the Galactic Empire and 30,000 years of barbarism. This, of course, didn’t sit well with the current ruling class and they wanted to punish Seldon for it. Seldon convinces them that setting up a scientific colony, called The Foundation, would allow them to keep the knowledge of the universe safe from destruction and allow a second Galactic Empire to be set up in 1,000 years instead of 30,000. If you haven’t read the books, I would highly recommend them.

A universe where a giant empire has fractured into many different small governments, all competing for resources and lost knowledge is a universe begging to be used in an RPG. Can the remains of the empire regain the power it once had? Can smaller governments protect their citizens from barbarians? What happens when a scientific colony developing new technologies is discovered?

Portions of the stories jump by several decades (to show the effects of the predictions), so a direct translation from book to RPG may not be feasible. But the core concepts could be quite enjoyable in a space opera role playing game.

I understand that one of the streaming services that I don’t subscribe to is making a television series based off of the Foundation books. I don’t know how I’m going to see it as I’m currently maxed out on the number of paid subscriptions that I have now. I wonder how they will keep the audience interested in characters that are only in a portion of the books. This is one of those “Please Don’t Suck” wishes that fans often have when a show is based off of a popular intellectual property.

Final Thoughts:

This group of suggestions started edging back into the “Eh?” category where the terms were really broad in scope. I could see some posts about how to use an “Ally” in the game. “Lineage” could be useful in a Klingon based campaign (or something similar). “Peace” drew a complete blank for me. Again because of how broad it was.

RPGaDay 2021 chart
The RPGaDay 2021 chart
Posted in: Collecting, Dungeons and Dragons, Role Playing Games, Science Fiction, Star Trek

#RPGaDay2021 Day 15: Supplement

Day 15: Supplement

All right. The topic of the day is “Supplement”. I’d like to post some covers from my favorite role playing game supplements that I’ve collected.

The Star Trek Ship Construction Manual by FASA: I used this supplement for the Star Trek Role Playing Game so much that I had to tape the book together. Not only had I collected every starship for the game from different supplements, modules and magazine articles, I used this book to create stats for vessels found in various tech manuals and blueprints. I started scanning some of the printouts that I made in the 90’s and you can find the ships (or links) here.

The Gazetteer series by TSR: I LOVED this series. I was a bigger fan of the BECMI Dungeons and Dragons game in my earlier days of gaming. As I mentioned during the Maps entry into the #RPGaDAY2021 Challenge, I loved the created world that was presented in the game. When I heard about the Gazetteers I knew I had to check them out. I remember hoping on a bus and taking a ride to a downtown book store just to pick up the first book. It had pull out maps and a ton of details on the lands that we had only briefly seen in the game manuals. I also liked how it added elements to the game such as Dwarf Clerics in The Dwarves of Rockholme supplement. I wondered if these extra rules ever got collected into a single book.

The Prisoner by Steve Jackson Games: I had played a few GURPS games, but I was not a big fan of the system. What I did like was the many, many supplements that was released for the system. Even though you may not play GURPS, the supplements contained a good amount of information that you could use for other games. Being a big fan of the British surreal spy-fi television series, The Prisoner, I had to pick up this book when it came out.

Final Thoughts:

This was a great topic. When I was creating the spreadsheet in July with all of the suggestions on them, I filled in an idea for this topic right away.

RPGaDay 2021 chart
The RPGaDay 2021 chart
Posted in: Role Playing Games, Science Fiction, Star Trek

#RPGaDay2021 Day 9: Percentage

Day 9: Percentage

The primary reason I enjoy role playing games is the opportunity to participate in a story with a bunch of friends. I’m certain that if I asked the reason why most gamers participate in RPGs the answers would be very similar to this one. However there is a secondary reason I enjoy role playing games, especially those based off of an Intellectual Property. It provides me with a system that I can use to compare two different things within the scope of the game. A really good example has been the discussion held in geek circles about how two characters/items can stack up to each other. Would a Klingon have an advantage over a Moclan in combat? Which starfighter would be better in combat, the X-Wing or the Starfury? How would Mr. Spock and Yoda do in a chess match with each other? While there hasn’t been an official multi-IP role playing game, fans have homebrewed stats for popular characters, ships and races for their favorite RPG systems. There have also been enough official publications for generic systems (such as D20 for both Star Wars and Starfleet Battles’ Prime Directive) that you could start to put together an educated guess.

While the above mentioned D20 system is very useful for ease of game play, I feel like it lacks on the comparison side. I believe that both Klingons and Moclans would end up with a +2 to their Strength attributes and doesn’t help with the debate. This is why I thought the FASA entry into the Star Trek role playing license was perfect. It was based off of a percentage system for both attributes and skills.

For example: I remember trying to create the FASA stats for the character of Will Decker, the Captain demoted to Commander in Star Trek: The Motion Picture. In a D20 system, he would have looked pretty similar to other command grade Starfleet officers. But in the percentage system of FASA, he becomes a little more unique. Sure sometimes the difference may only be a few percentage points, but on paper he is different. I brought my Decker stats to a few of my fellow FASA players and we had a debate on the numbers I had brought in. One friend thought I had Decker’s luck too high (since he lost his ship and his captaincy in a sucky situation). I was really hoping to find my notes from that discussion, but it’s been years since I’ve seen them. Knowing my luck, they will turn up in a box that I’ll be cleaning out of the garage. If I find them, I’ll post them here.

Now I’m not saying that the FASA system is superior to other IP based RPGs. But it is one that I’ve enjoyed a lot more because of the way that they used percentages in the game. I’m aware of other gaming systems that use percentages, but I’ve never had a chance to try them out or look them over.

Final Thoughts:

I’m not certain what to think of all the other suggestions for this date. “Medium” is mostly a size (unless you count the magical medium). I could have done a blog about the different “Role” methods used to generated D&D stats. “Emotion” didn’t elicit any emotion from me. Yea I’ll see myself out for that last one.

RPGaDay 2021 chart
The RPGaDay 2021 chart
Posted in: Dungeons and Dragons, Movies, MST3K, Role Playing Games, Science Fiction

#RPGaDay2021 Day 8: Stream

Day 8: Stream

Inspiration can come from a wide variety of sources. The original source can be very good work, or it can be a bad one with a good idea, just poorly delivered. An example of this is the 2000 film, Battlefield Earth. Yes this disaster of a film actually inspired a story idea for me. It was being shown on a channel after midnight (probably the only way to really watch this box office bomb) and I didn’t need to get up in the morning so I decided to see if the rumors of how bad this movie was true. Let me just say, it’s very true. But the ending made me think, what would happen to a series of conquered worlds if the occupying aliens suddenly found their source of power and transportation gone?

So I love watching various science-fiction, fantasy and horror TV shows and movies. Both the good and the bad kind. If a show is too bad, I can elect to not watch it. There is plenty of other shows to move onto. But where can you find these shows? I have lots of memories in the 80’s and 90’s visiting the local video rental store. When I went with my family, I was always trying to find the weirdest, oddest film to watch. Often I was over ruled since my siblings usually wanted to watch something from Disney or other main-stream films. So later when I lived on my own, I had to be lucky to catch the show on a time it was aired (such as Battlefield Earth listed above) or I had to buy a VHS tape (later DVD). This had two issues, if it wasn’t a money maker, it may not have had a lot of media releases. When they were found, they were either really expensive, or really cheap in the discount bin. If cost wasn’t too big of a factor, what would I do with the media afterwards. I don’t mind buying DVDs of Star Trek or other favorites that I would enjoy watching at any time. But would I really want to watch Hell Comes to Frogtown again and again?

Luckily the internet came to our rescue. The rise of streaming services has given some of these diamond in the rough films a home where you can give them a view. So I thought I’d share where I’ve found some of my more unusual films. Yes there is a large variety on Netflix, Hulu or Paramount+. However these services are like cable channels. They only hold the rights to some films for so long (unless they are originals specifically for the streaming service). I’ve discovered that some of the streaming services like Amazon Prime, Pluto TV and Tubi have held some interesting titles. I’ve been able to watch some of the films in the Darkstalker series (boy that was cheesy). You can also find shows like Mystery Science Theater 3000, Creature Features, Elvira and more where they re-show off-kilter films (sometimes by adding comedy in the process).

Another amazing service for films and different documentaries has been plain old YouTube. As I type out this blog post, I’ve been watching episodes of Timeline (where they are building a medieval castle and exploring the life of ordinary people who built them).

I’ve also added apps on my Smart TV for Xumo, Crackle, Ruko TV and others, but I don’t get a chance to get into those as often. But you can find a cheesy 80’s sword and sorcery film that may give you an idea for your next Dungeons and Dragons game.

Final Thoughts:

I suspect that fifteen years ago this topic wouldn’t have come up in an #RPGaDAY style challenge. At least not one that would have inspired discussion on streaming services. I wonder if this single suggestion was used to gather links on possible streaming sources for other’s to explore?

RPGaDay 2021 chart
The RPGaDay 2021 chart
Posted in: Dungeons and Dragons, Role Playing Games, Science Fiction, Star Trek

#RPGaDay2021 Day 6: Explore

Day 6: Explore

There are a couple of different types of role-playing styles played by fans of RPGs. Power gaming, more acting than dice rolling and a few others. One of the biggest styles is Exploring. Star Trek is a classic for this style of gaming. Boldly Going Where No One Has Gone Before. Finding a strange new world and discovering new life forms. While I’ve never had the opportunity to play Traveller, I understand that Exploring is a big portion of that game as well. There have been various rules in different Science Fiction games that gave a methodology of creating new worlds (FASA had a very interesting system) and new aliens. I remember being amazed that Starships and Spacemen had a system that could randomly decide what the aliens bumpy foreheads would look like.

The Dungeons and Dragons Expert Rules introduced Dungeon Masters and Players to the hex crawl. This was the next step up from exploring underground caverns and dungeons as described in the Basic Rules. What will the players encounter when they blaze a new path (hey did I just connect to another one of the words in the challenge?). I remember reading the rules and wondered how many times the DM would actually keep track of the party getting lost? Is the adventure in the travel or is the adventure in the destination? I don’t recall which one of the retro-clones it was, but one rulebook talked about how the regular population hardly moved past the regional area that was controlled by the local baron. This made travelers from other ares carriers of news. The locals would want to know what they saw on their exploration. This could lead to some role playing opportunities when the party reaches a tavern in a new town. That is, if the citizens of the town trust outsiders (insert dramatic music here). Something for DMs to consider between dungeons and hexcrawls.

Final Thoughts:

Flavor is one of the suggestions? Really? I wonder if anyone will really post about Flavor. Path kinda works alongside Explore (which I tried above). But I couldn’t think of anything that would be interesting to post about. I’m still scratching my head about Flavor as a suggestion. Chase could have been an interesting subject. I’ve heard that the James Bond RPG had a good chase system. I’ve just never played it to try it out. Flavor? What are we going to get the homebrew stats of Flavortown King Guy Fieri?

RPGaDay 2021 chart
The RPGaDay 2021 chart
Posted in: Collecting, Role Playing Games, Science Fiction, Star Trek

Thank you friends for helping my collection

So I’ve been talking with several friends about my blog posts and my goals for the site. One of them told me that he was downsizing his collection of role-playing game books and offered them to me. Here is the lot which was larger than I expected.

New Games

As you can see, there are several cyberpunk games, some fantasy titles and a couple of sci-fi RPGs. My daughter already wants to look through one of them. I’m also certain that a few of these will be used in my 2022 Character Creation Challenge next January. Some of these may even inspire me to write up a review after I’ve read them.

Another friend heard about my goal of collecting the Star Trek Universe info cards that were published in the late 90s-early 00s. He let me go through his extras and I was able to find some that I didn’t have. I believe that I now own 98% of the cards published. I’d love to actually complete the set. Here are the photos of the cards.

Star Trek Universe Cards

Thank you to both friends for providing these to me. I’ll try to pay it forward when I can. These are the type of geek things that I look forward to.

Posted in: Humor, Science Fiction

Don’t Forget Your Towel

Towel Day 2011
A hoopy frood that knows where his towel is.

“What the strag will think is that any man who can hitch the length and breadth of the galaxy, rough it, slum it, struggle against terrible odds, win through, and still knows where his towel is, is clearly a man to be reckoned with.”

“Hey, you sass that hoopy Ford Prefect? There’s a frood who really knows where his towel is.”

Today (May 25th) is Towel Day for fans of Douglas Adams’ series “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.” It was started by fans just after Douglas Adams passed away in 2001. I’ve been a fan of this series for quite some time after I saw the first BBC mini-series on PBS Utah (KUED Channel 7) back in the 90’s. The photo posted above was taken in 2011 and I had several co-workers get the reference, while others I had to educate on a book they should be reading.

I really enjoyed the 2005 movie (I saw it at a special sneak preview arranged by I-Sci-Fi), especially when Douglas Adams would make small changes to the story for each media the story was released in. If you go and read the book (I did a re-read several years ago) and compare it to the BBC mini-series, the audio-drama, the text based computer game, the DC Comic series and the 2005 movie, they all have slight changes. All made by Adams.

Why? I found it funny. It was the odd-ball type of humor that was part Monty Python, part Weird Al and part Phule’s Company all combined like a slice of lemon wrapped around a gold brick. Speaking of which, I wonder if I can get Zaphod Beeblebrox to mix me up a Pan Galactic Gargle Blaster to celebrate.