Posted in: Character Creation Challenge, Role Playing Games, Spy-Fi

2022 Character Creation Challenge Day 25: White Lies

DwD Studios has put out several games that I’ve featured in the Character Creation Challenge. Earlier this month I created a character for Covert Ops. Last year I used FrontierSpace on one of the dates. For this entry, I’m using their espionage game called White Lies. This game is based on the Swords & Wizadry Whitebox (an original D&D retroclone so in essence this is a d20 based system). At the time of publishing this blog entry, there was no cost to download a PDF of the game (or any of it’s supplements) from DriveThruRPG. I am tempted to get a PoD copy of this game as well.

White Lies is billed as a roleplaying game about doing bad things for good reasons. Let’s make a seedy underworld spy that works for Bureau 19 (the agency in the game). The attribute generation is the standard 3d6 going down the line. STR, INT, WIS, CON, DEX and CHA. An Intelligence score of 13 or higher earns a 5% bonus to all experience point awards. The same with Charisma or your classes prime attribute. I wonder if these bonuses would stack? While there is basic character creation at the start of the book, an advanced supplemental training is also available in the back of the book if Admins allow it. For action checks (not attack rolls) you roll a d6 and add any modifiers. A roll of 4 or above is a success for standard actions. The Admin may determine that some tasks require a higher target number.

After rolling the attributes, you can select your class. The minimum prime requirement for each class is 9. We can select from Confiscators (thieves), Eliminators, Infiltrators (con men), Investigators and Transporters. The additional supplements gives the options for Recon Scouts and Telepaths. With the high Dexterity score that I rolled, I’m going to select Transporter. I filled in the special skills and bonuses. This character also starts with a vehicle worth $50,000 (nice).

Speaking of equipment, agents automatically start with a semi-auto pistol, an operative kit, one other equipment kit of choice (I selected Technicians to fix the car if needed) and 3d6x100 starting cash. The basic for the AC is the lower number is better. But the RAW gives the Admin the option to use the ascending armor class. I’m sticking with the basic.

Add up armor class, select languages, write down movement (based on weight carried) and roll 1d6 for HP (add any CON modifier). Luckily I rolled a 6. I did look at the supplemental training in the back of the book and I selected Drive.

Ronald Denton wanted to be a race car driver every since he saw his first race. He learned all about cars while growing up. Unfortunately, no one wanted to hire a race car driver from the coldest wastelands of South Dakota. A friend hired him on to help with transporting cars from one side of the states to another. During one of these runs, Denton assisted an agent escaping through some treacherous roads. Impressed with his driving skills, the agent arranged for Bureau 19 to hire Denton and he hasn’t looked back since. He eagerly went through the training needed to become an agent.

Afterthoughts:

I am really curious to see how this game would play at the table. I could see myself playing it and homebrewing it. The book was pretty well laid out. I wasn’t searching too hard for information. An index would have been nice at the back of the book, but the PDF is bookmarked. There were a few equipment items that had “cost” listed as the price. I’m not certain if this is instructions for the Admin to determine the cost or if it was in error. Nothing else stood out to me editorial wise.

Additional Notes:

Another blog has popped up and been added to the list at the Character Creation Challenge page. Yes new blogs can come up any time. If I’m missing any, please email me at Carl (at) TardisCaptain.com.

We are in the last week of the challenge. The finish line is in sight.

Coming Up Next:

The Original Travel

Posted in: Character Creation Challenge, Role Playing Games, Spy-Fi

2022 Character Creation Challenge Day 15: Covert Ops

Day 15 of the Character Creation Challenge and I’ll be using the Covert Ops RPG from DwD Studios. This is part of their Barebones system.

For the previous entries of the various espionage RPGs, I’ve been creating characters based in the 1960’s. This character will be a spy in the modern times. Let’s see where the game takes us. I’m going to try to go as random as possible and play were the dice take me.

There are four abilities. Strength, Dexterity, Logic and Willpower which have a score from 1-100. Then there are ten skills which are Academic, Leader, Detective, Martial Artist, Medic, Pilot, Scout, Soldier, Technician and Thief. These have a level between 1 to 6. Characters also get Bones at the start of each session which can be used as a type of heroic luck (re-roll, automatic success, increased damage, etc.).

A chart is provided with different origins for your character. You can pick one or roll D100 to select randomly. I rolled a Medic. From the listing I got to choose one advantage and I selected +5 to my LOG score. For the abilities, I could select from some pre-rolled scores or roll 5D+30 four times and assign them. Wanting to roll dice, I let them fly. This resulted in 54, 49, 64 and 52. I spent a bone to re-roll the 49 and got a 61. Next for the skills you can select a primary skill or roll for a random. This skill is marked with +20. A secondary skill (also picked or randomly selected) is marked with a +10. Sticking with the dice I ended up with primary of scout and a secondary of martial artist. Now you can select or randomly roll one skill to gain a level in. I selected Soldier since I also wanted this character to be good with weapons. I also spent a second bone to get a level in another skill. So far this is turning out to be an interesting character.

The game wants you to select two descriptors for your character. One that is beneficial and one that is not. If you use these during role play, it can earn you development points (this game’s version of XP). While there are random charts for Master Villain descriptors, no additional suggestions are made for player characters. I really had a hard time coming up with two of them. I wished that I could have asked the GM if these could be developed while in play. Next came a Moral Code (an interesting way to do alignment)

For equipment each agent gets a basic weapon (I’m glad that I didn’t have to buy it like I did in other games) and an Operative Pack (very basic spy equipment). Then I had six allowance points to buy other gear (I can get six more by spending a bone if I want). Some equipment was pretty standardized, the other options were vague enough that allowed players to outfit their characters as desired if the GM allowed it and if they had the points for it. Here is the character sheet.

Afterthoughts:

I like the percentage system in RPGs. I wonder how the system runs at the table. As I was creating this character, I could see where some homebrewing of characters from other sources could come into play. Now I just need a way to run/participate a game at a table or online.

Additional Notes:

This character was completed on Day 15, but with the technical issues on my website it wasn’t posted until January 17th. I posted a picture of the character sheet on social media. One of the unexpected benefits is that the DwD Studios twitter account responded to the post complementing the character. I love having the interaction with the creators/publisher.

Coming Up Next:

The Computer is your friend. Paranoia 2nd Edition

Posted in: Character Creation Challenge, Role Playing Games, Spy-Fi

2022 Character Creation Challenge Day 10: Modern Age

I remember looking at the rulebook for Modern Age before buying it and I was impressed. Within a few minutes of looking at the book, I knew the basic concept of the system. It bugs me when I have to flip past 20-50 pages just to find the basic rules in a rulebook. Remember publishers, players want to find the details quickly and not have to go through a ton of fluff to find it. Yes the setting is important, but it shouldn’t overshadow the rules. So I’ve elected to use this system for my latest entry into the Character Creation Challenge.

Speaking of setting, Modern Age is a system that can be used for any type of setting from pirates on the sea to the industrial revolution to current times to near-future. The system is also used for The Expanse RPG so you can go into some science fiction settings as well. There is a “World of Lazarus” setting included with the rules, but what caught my eye was the Agents of ACRONYM in the Modern Age Companion book. Creating another spy? Yes please.

So let’s make Raymond Ray, freelance intelligence agent that started out as a member of the CIA before retiring from the agency in the 1960’s. He held a brief position with UNITY’s North American branch before deciding that he could help more people by being an independent. While the goals of UNITY and the CIA were noble, they tended to focus on the big things (and they still consider him an asset to use). Ray noticed that smaller governments, organizations and even individuals needed assistance in the modern world just about to enter the new decade.

Modern Age characters start out with nine abilities with scales ranging from -1 to +4 with 1 being the average for PCs. These are Accuracy, Communication, Constitution, Dexterity, Fighting, Intelligence, Perception, Strength and Willpower. I’ve noticed that I haven’t been defining a lot of abilities in my character creations/reviews. So if there is an ability that isn’t very obvious and I fail to define it, please let me know. In Modern Age, you can add the total of a 3d6 roll and compare the results to a chart and take them in order, or you can arrange them how you see fit or you can buy abilities (all attributes are 0 and you have 12 points to spread throughout with no attribute higher than 4 or lower than 0). Because I like rolling the dice I’m going to randomly roll then assign them to attributes. As the character creation process continues my character will earn Ability Focuses. Specialized items under an ability (example Accuracy could have a focus of thrown weapons) will gain +2 bonuses to rolls when using the focus.

The next step is determining Ray’s background. I rolled Middle Class-Suburban. While there are different backgrounds, they all give the same bonus. +1 to an ability score, select two focuses and two talents (which haven’t been explained yet) and roll on a benefits table. I selected Investigator for Ray’s profession. He was studying to become a detective when the CIA recruited him out of college. This profession brought about another round of items filled out on the character sheet. After this was the character’s Drive, or what motivates them to act. Some of these in the basic book are good. The companion book only had info on making custom drives. So I’ll select Survivor. Ray survived his time in the CIA and UNITY and knows that things may get worse if he doesn’t prepare better.

Next came sections on resources, health (already determined from the steps above), defense (10+Dex) and speed. I lost track of the process from here as things started going in different directions. So I buckled down and wrapped up the character by selecting some equipment I thought a freelance intelligence agent would have. I think I got everything, but there are still a few blank spots on the character sheet (beyond the background or description). A quick look at the index didn’t help (ugh). I think I’m done, so here is the sheet.

Afterthoughts:

While I’m glad that I have the books in PDF format (and I used multiple books for this character), I really wish that I had them in a dead tree version. I find that flipping pages and setting bookmarks is a lot easier when trying to learn a new game or create a character for the first time.

For the most part, the process moved smoothly. A little better explanation of talents before you had to start choosing them would have helped. Living on the Edge in the character creation process was not listed in the actual talents, but Living on the Fringe was. So? The Same?

I think this book deserves more of a deeper dive than just cracking it open and trying to put a character together. I’m sure there is some good stuff in here, but a little jumbled up. Not as bad as some other games, but enough that I got frustrated with the character creation process. If I was participating a game (and I really want to try this system) I’d probably see about writing up a character creation guide with a little bit more focus for new players. This is a sandbox game (which is good) but it really needs the GM to confirm a few details before creating a character.

Additional Notes:

I had the owner of the Subplot Kudzu blog contact me via Facebook to let me know that they were participating in the #CharacterCreationChallenge. Thank you, I’ve added the blog to the list of participants. On the RPG.net forum thread, someone mentioned that we’ve already surpassed the page count from the 2021 challenge.

Coming Up Next:

Farscape Role Playing Game

Posted in: Character Creation Challenge, No One Lives Forever, Role Playing Games, Spy-Fi

2022 Character Creation Challenge Day 7: Espionage!

Today’s entry is Espionage!: The Secret Agent Role Playing Game (1st edition). This was published in 1983 by Hero Games and is based off of the Champions super-hero RPG. While I’ve had a chance to play a few super-hero based RPGs, Champions had never been one of them. So this will be a new experience for me. I had picked up this game when I won an online auction that contained several different RPGs from the 80’s. Some of the other games will be used in future 2022 Character Creation Challenge entries.

In the 2021 #CharacterCreationChallenge I created characters for several different espionage based RPGs like Top Secret, James Bond, Mercenaries, Spies and Private Eyes, Spycraft 2nd edition, and Top Secret: New World Order. I had tied all of those characters together in two methods. They were all inspired by characters seen in The World’s End movie and they were replacement agents for a depleted group known as UNITY from the video game series, No One Lives Forever. While I was thinking about making more new agents for UNITY, a read through of the character creation process dissuaded that idea. So I’m going to make a CIA agent since that is what the game is built around.

Devron Marcus was a college student trying to earn a degree in business management so he could follow in his father’s footsteps. Just before Marcus was planning to graduate, his father was killed in Europe in an armed robbery. During his personal investigation, Marcus uncovered evidence that his father had been targeted by East Germany’s Secret Police (the Stasi). A CIA agent, working on the case, took Marcus under his wing and assisted him in confirming the plot and allowing the CIA to respond. This lead to Marcus being recruited by the CIA after graduation. Officially Marcus works as a business salesman working in European markets for the company his father use to work for. Unofficially, he carries out assignments for the CIA.

The primary characteristics for an Espionage! character is Strength, Dexterity, Constitution, Body Pips (think hit points), Intelligence, Ego, Presence and Comeliness. While the average person starts with 8 in all scores, the average character (being a little bit more heroic) starts with 10. Each new character starts with 50 Character Points to spend on stats and packages. You can gain additional points by lowering some stats or taking disadvantages. Different attributes had different costs (there’s a lot of math so far in this game) so I selected the stats that I felt a college graduate the age of 25 would have. From these you can generate Figured Characteristics which are Physical Defense, Energy Defense, Speed, Recovery, Endurance Pips and Stun Pips. Thanks to the power of math I come up with the base scores, which I can then improve with any Character Points if I so elect.

I added the skills/advantages/disadvantages from the two CIA packages that I took. I then used the remaining Character Points to add some additional skills that I thought that Agent Marcus should have. There is a section for equipment in the book, but no spots on the character sheet for it. So I skipped that part thinking it would happen in play.

So the breakdown of the system is roll 3d6 and try to get a number lower than a certain amount for a success. Getting that target number to roll under could be a little complicated depending upon the skill/stat level and other factors. It could be interesting to see in play. I wonder if there are any YouTube videos of the Espionage in an RPG session to watch? There are several other espionage RPGs I’d probably play first before this one, but I could have my mind changed. Here is the character sheet.

Afterthoughts:

There was only one package in this edition to create characters, and that was for the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). I wonder if the 2nd edition of the game had more packages for characters to choose from if you wanted to play MI-6 or an independent agency (like UNITY). Hopefully someday I’ll get a chance to find out. I could tell this was a first edition of a game, it was a little hard to read in some sections. While I know I played at least one session of Fantasy Hero by the same company, I don’t recall any big desire to purchase or play releases from Hero Games.

There is some player notes in the back of the book that advised against turning the game into a shooting fest. I was actually glad to see this. In other spy-fi games I’ve been worried that the game would turn into a merc/shooting-fest. I’d be more interested in actual espionage action instead of run-and-gun style action when playing an espionage style game. Yes some shooting can happen, but if it happens too many times, you’re not much of a “secret” agent are you?

Additional Notes:

The number of new blogs found seem to be coming up in twos. I’ve added the latest two finds to the Character Creation Challenge page. I appreciate those that have linked back to my site. Thank you.

Coming Up Next:

Star Trek Adventures- Klingon

Posted in: Archer, Character Creation Challenge, Comic Books, Conventions, Cosplay, Doctor Who, Dune, Fan Club, Horror, Horror Hosts, Humor, James Bond, Movies, MST3K, Music, No One Lives Forever, Reviews, Role Playing Games, Science Fiction, Spy-Fi, Star Trek, Star Wars, TV Review, Video Game, Website

2021 is in the rear view, now onto 2022

So another year has come and gone and I am glad. While 2021 was not as bad as the year that shall not be named, it wasn’t the easiest. There are still some challenges in this world that I really hope that our society can come together to get past. I’m still trying to focus on the positives of the past year.

==Role Playing Games==

2021 started out with the first #CharacterCreationChallenge. Amazingly enough I was able to knock out 31 characters in 31 days. I loved reading all of the different responses that the other participants and even made a few new friends along the way. I’m looking forward to the 2022 Character Creation Challenge.

There was also the #RPGaDAY2021 Challenge during the month of August. I really had a struggle with this one, but I was glad that I had participated in it.

I also had a chance to finally play an online Star Trek Adventures game. We have a second session in our “one-shot” planned very soon. The kewl thing is, the game was announced with less than a 24 hour start time. I was able to use my Star Trek Adventures entry in the Character Creation Challenge to quickly drop into the game. Playing on just Zoom is difficult, but doable.

I also had some friends get me into an online Starfinder game that lasted several months (with 1-2 sessions per month). It was interesting, but it really turned me off using Fantasy Grounds as an online platform. It’s an app instead of a browser based system and it is a resource hog like nothing else. Even the players with high end computers were having issues. Unfortunately real life caused the game to end after a few months. The Starfinder system is ok, but a bit crunchy to what I’m use to. The Pathfinder in space mentality didn’t really appeal to me either. I know I was gaming more for the company than I was for the system and universe.

I still want to get into a D&D 5th edition game or a regular Star Trek Adventure game. I’d also prefer to get back together with gaming in person, but with the way the variants are running wild, I’m not certain that will happen any time soon. I’m open to an online game if the schedules can be worked out (the same old problems).

There were several new additions to my role-playing game collection. Between purchases and donations from friends I’ve been able to add to my gaming shelf. I also took advantage of several PDF sales. Instead of listing them all here, I’m planning to save them for my Character Creation Challenge entries. I also added to my dice collection including a special die.

==Video Games==

I’m still playing my old standbys of No One Lives Forever and Tron 2.0. However thanks to a gift card for GameStop (actually ThinkGeek) I was able to pick up a few other video games that I’m looking forward to trying out. I’ve been playing Balder’s Gate and it’s been… interesting. I think I might be playing it wrong.

Star Wars Jedi Fallen Order has been good so far, but I think my daughter is enjoying it more than I am.

==Movies==

Even though it came out the year before, I had the chance to see Wonder Woman 1984 and I enjoyed it. I wished I could have seen it in the theater. 2021 was also the 25th Anniversary of the Mystery Science Theater 3000: The Movie.

Through streaming I was able to enjoy Black Widow and Godzilla vs Kong (wish I could have seen this in the theater).

Finally getting back into the theater I was able to enjoy watching the latest James Bond movie. We finally saw the sci-fi epic Dune and loved watching the new Ghostbusters film. I still want to watch the latest Matrix movie, Spiderman movie and The King’s Man while they are in the theaters.

I’ve also watched a ton of cheesy sci-fi, fantasy and horror films on streaming services. Some were good, some were not so good.

==Television==

Creature Features held it’s 50th Anniversary. During the summer I had my photo aired on a segment of Svengoolie and my kid’s artwork promoted on Creature Features.

Netflix’s Army of the Dead was a good adventure. Amazon’s The Tomorrow War was interesting to watch. Ice Road was also interesting, but probably not a repeat watch. The Wheel of Time didn’t catch my attention at first, but slowly got a little better. I never read the books so I don’t know how it compares. I really enjoyed Foundation after I was worried how the books were going to translate to the screen. Invasion was an interesting concept, but starts out really slow. I’m glad I stuck with it. I need to finish Y: The Last Man and I’m really disappointed that we will only get one season of Cowboy Bebop.

Thank you What We Do In The Shadows, Archer and South Park for being funny. Crossed Swords was a challenge, but I was able to get into it. I’ve really enjoyed the animated Disenchantment series on Netflix. It was also good to see Animaniacs again.

On the Star Trek front, Star Trek: Prodigy has been interesting. I’ve also been enjoying Star Trek: Discovery as well. I really think that Star Trek: Lower Decks has knocked it out of the park. I am really looking forward to Star Trek: Strange New Worlds. I wish there was more Short Treks. Wil Wheaton’s after show “The Ready Room” has been very enjoyable and informative.

Disney+ brought us several good entries for 2021. The Muppet’s Haunted Mansion was really, really good. I really wish that they would give us more Muppets Now. WandaVision and Loki were really good from the Marvel entries. Falcon and the Winter Soldier was ok. I haven’t seen the Hawkeye series yet but plan to sit down and watch it. I really liked the What If!?! series. On the Star Wars side, The Mandalorian continued to be great. Visions was ok, but I wish I hadn’t binged it since it probably would have been better in smaller doses. The Bad Batch was also enjoyable. There has only been one episode of The Book of Boba Fett so I’ll be watching to see where this goes.

Because I missed a lot of Doctor Who episodes while I was studying for college, I spent part of the year catching up. Not only was I able to complete this task, I was able to watch the latest season as it aired. I’m looking forward to the New Years Day special.

2022 will finally get us the third season of The Orville and I’m really looking forward to the next season of Mystery Science Theater 3000.

==Books and Comics==

I really enjoyed the Star Trek: Picard novel, Last Best Hope. There are several other books that I’ve been reading on my kindle and in dead tree format. I’ve been trying to read The Dying Earth series by Jack Vance as well but I haven’t completed them.

The War of the Bounty Hunters in the Star Wars comic series was good, but frustrating. I really wish that they had a better system to follow the flow of the story that spans across several publications. I felt like a few times I was re-treading over the same ground.

The Mirror Universe stories and Star Trek Year Five was really good from IDW Publishing. I’m looking forward to reading more of these stories.

Doctor Who, James Bond and The Orville was other comics I had been pulling from my local store.

==Cosplay and Conventions==

I was able to add the Admiral Picard uniform to my collection. I had a chance to wear this at FanX: The Salt Lake Comic Convention. It was the only con I attended in the year. Hopefully 2022 will be better convention wise. I’d love to get an Admiral Vance uniform from Star Trek: Discovery or a Monster Maroon from Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan. However those are long term goals.

==Live Events==

Thanks to 103.1 The Wave, we were able to take the family to Lagoon. With the vaccines helping out, we’ve been able to attend the Trans-Siberian Orchestra performance and the live Mystery Science Theater 3000: Time Bubble Tour. I’ve already got several concerts and events planned for 2022. The Beyond Van Gogh experience was probably the closest I’ll ever get to a holodeck experience. The Egyptian exhibit at the Natural History Museum of Utah was very enjoyable.

I was also interviewed on the radio for the Star Trek Day 2021. That was an interesting experience. But also not the first time I’ve been interviewed on the TV, Radio or even print.

Our Seventh Fleet and USS Ticonderoga meetings and events have been able to get back in person. This was a very good thing as we are a close knit Star Trek family. We’ve been able to grow and succeed because we get together and see each other’s smiling faces.

==Website==

I was able to get some photo albums online and I’ve added to them as I’ve found more photos. I’ve been able to keep to a regular schedule of several blog posts per week (counting the Star Trek Quotes listings). I should do more gaming articles and reviews of things I’ve watched/read/enjoyed. However, I still need to get some of the other sections of my website filled out. I’m a little upset with myself that I haven’t gotten more of the website completed. This will be a goal for 2022.

It’s good to have goals. I think I’m going to spend 2022 trying to achieve more of them.

Posted in: Character Creation Challenge, Collecting, Dune, Dungeons and Dragons, Role Playing Games, Science Fiction, Spy-Fi, Star Trek, Star Wars

Prepping for the 2022 Character Creation Challenge

Some of the games that I plan to use in the 2022 #CharacterCreationChallenge

When participating in a month long challenge, like the Character Creation Challenge, it is always a good idea to put a little prep work in ahead of time. I took some of the preparation and after action lessons from the 2021 challenge and I am putting them into use here.

I’ve once again took advantage of one of my online spreadsheets and created a schedule for the month of January. I’ve tried to place the games that I’m not very familiar with on my days off so I can dedicate more time to them. I’ve heard from some participants stating that they would also be doing prep work before the challenge starts.

Speaking of participants, I’ve had several people email me at Carl (at) TardisCaptain.com stating that they would be partaking of the challenge. Good for you. A lot of people have also been posting on the Character Creation Challenge post at RPG.net stating that they would be releasing their entries there. Several blogs will also be posting entries and others will just post them on social media. If you use social media, please use the hashtag #CharacterCreationChallenge so that others can find them and enjoy them.

If you are reading this after January 1st and you still want to jump into the challenge, please do. A few participants last year either did a quick catch up or just made sure they ran a full 31 days. The choice is yours. This challenge is just for fun with our gaming systems.

I’ve re-read some of my past entries and entries from other participants. In fact, while I was researching one of my games that I selected for the start of the challenge, I found a blog that had participated in 2021. The World of Philosopherzeus had several good entries that were also written like game reviews. I’m going to have to look more into the Low Fantasy Gaming system that the blog recommended. If you participated in 2021 and I did not link your blog to the Character Creation Challenge page, please email me and I’ll add it. If you are participating in 2022, also shoot me the link so I can promote it.

The image above is some of the physical books that I plan to use for the 2022 challenge. Several of them were purchases that I’ve made over the past year or gifts from friends who were looking to unload books. I made sure they had a good home to go to. I’ve also got several games in PDF format that I’ve purchased from DriveThruRPG or on one of the various bundle sales that are out there. One of the PDFs that I’m looking forward to trying out is the original Traveller little black book editions. Another PDF game is the Wendy’s Feast of Legends marketing game that was put out a few years ago. A participant used it in the 2021 challenge and I smacked my head not thinking about it then. So I’ve added it to the list for 2022.

Another interesting tidbit recently came up that the 2021 challenge helped me with. I’ve been wanting to play Star Trek Adventures for quite some time (a lot of local groups are still unable to get together). On one of the STA facebook groups a GM announced a game with a day warning that it would start. I sent him the link from my 2021 STA entry and asked if I could play. The GM accepted it because it was actually rolled up and not created with one of the quick generation websites. So I’ve had at least one session with the game and we hope to wrap up the adventure in a follow up game.

Remember to have fun with this. That was one of the primary goals of the challenge.

You can also use this graphic to help promote the #CharacterCreationChallenge.

31 Day Character Creation Challenge
Feel free to share this image on social media to spread the word.
Posted in: Dungeons and Dragons, James Bond, No One Lives Forever, Role Playing Games, Spy-Fi

The secret is out… on secret tunnels

I’m sure that no one will talk about this project outside of work.

So I love watching YouTube videos. Primarily because they can cover a wide variety of interesting subjects that you won’t usually find in regular educational (or semi-educational) channels. I’ve been able to find interesting looks at how common people lived and ate not only in medieval times, but in the 1920’s and 30’s (which make for interesting game fodder for gangster type role playing games). We all have a general idea how Mob leaders and the royalty lived by the various movies and glamorous stories. But informative videos talking about the other side of the coin for various eras can help when adding atmosphere to different RPGs in different eras.

YouTube has an interesting algorithm on suggesting other possible videos that may be of interest. Sometimes it works, and sometimes it doesn’t (I won’t go into details but I wish that the YT apps on my TV had a way to give a “not interested” without having to go to the video itself).

One recent suggestion from YouTube was “Digging a Secret Tunnel” by a British content provider using the handle “colinfurze”. Apparently he’s been digging a secret tunnel that connects his house to his workshop and then to a backyard underground bunker for the past three years. Note: The video linked above is part six of the series, but it was the first one I had watched and inspired me to create this blog post. Also a warning, Colin comes across a little like a used car salesman in his enthusiasm. But don’t let that bug you, the video was quite interesting despite his almost game show host like quality.

The first reason that I clicked on the video was because I was one of the many young boys growing up who had the idea of making a secret tunnel in his basement as a means to covertly get out of the house. Luckily my parents never found out about me trying to cut through the walls in our home. And I didn’t get very far because the house was very well built. Colin’s video showed the amount of preparation and effort that was being put into the tunnel project. It was being built under his house, driveway and workshop before it made it to the bunker. You don’t want the ground sinking underneath those items. So it had to be re-enforced to hold the weight above them. They had to get the large amount of dirt and rocks hauled out through a 5×5 hatch that was built into the workshop. Colin claimed in the video that he is making the tunnel without the knowledge of his neighbors. Reading the comments was interesting (avoid the spambots) with posts from mining engineers and other interested parties.

The second thing that caught my attention wasn’t with the tunnel itself, but my thoughts that came up while watching the video. How many times have we seen a villain’s secret tunnel in an espionage movie? The image I used at the top of this blog came from the spy-fi video game “No One Lives Forever” and I remember seeing this scene thinking “who built this?” and “How did they keep it a secret?” As a gamer, I also thought about the various dungeons that our Dungeons and Dragons characters have crawled through. Quite a few times they were 10×10 tunnels underground occupied by various Orcs, Gelatinous Cubes and other dangerous creatures. While someone may have drawn the straight line on grid paper, in the game world someone would have had to dig it out, build supports and haul away the rock. Why was this built this way?

I eventually had a bunch of thoughts in my head that I knew I had to put it down as a blog post. I watched a really good video about creating a dungeon for D&D which went briefly into the whys and hows (and I learned quite a bit from the video). But it didn’t really get to the nitty gritty for me.

So why would a tunnel (secret or not) be built with the cost and effort involved? I think it comes down to several reasons. The first one that comes to mind is wealth. The tunnels are built as part of a mine trying to extract various ores and precious gems. While these may not be secret at the start (unless the digger wanted to keep others from getting to his prize) they could easily become forgotten. Just finding out which mine a highly prized gem used in an ancient crown came from could be the start of a quest all on it’s own. These mines could have been built by dwarves or other subterranean races. Mines were featured quite a bit in several westerns. Every once in a while the news reports about another soul lost while trying to explore a closed up mine or a murder victim being thrown down a mine shaft.

Another reason that a tunnel could be built is for transportation. Going over a mountain or across the English Channel represents a physical barrier. If you could tunnel under that barrier, you can make transportation much easier. Again, most of these would be known (at the start). However there have been smuggling tunnels built to avoid border patrols. The movie “The Great Escape” detailed the efforts of prisoners attempting to tunnel their way to freedom from a Nazi POW camp. This movie would also be inspirational about how to hide the tunnel and dispose of the debris needing to be dispersed all while trying to keep the tunnel from collapsing on them. When I visited the Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park in 2019, I learned about the railways and water tunnels and how they were built. They were built in a time before OSHA and safety guidelines. So corporations could hire workers to quickly dig, and if a worker was injured, they would hire the next guy to step up and replace them. This allowed them to build these tunnels quickly at the cost of human lives.

Housing and storage is another reason to build tunnels. I recall watching documentaries about World War II and how residents of some towns escaped into tunnels under the city to escape bombing raids. Repurposing tunnels from another use has allowed underground survival dwellings to be built. In Utah, the LDS Church stores massive amounts of genealogical records in an underground vault in the Wasatch mountains. In Norway, the Svalbard Global Seed Vault preserves over a million seed samples underground in a former coal mine. Both locations could make for interesting modern day missions in an RPG. On the fantasy side, how many times have we heard about massive underground cities used by the Dwarves and the Drow. Tunnels would connect them all to each other and to the surface.

The last reason may sound weird, but I think is valid. Tunnels could be built for a sense of vanity. A cult, probably using cultists or slaves to dig, could build secret tunnels in order to hide their temples of worship. The image that I used above is a tunnel under a Swiss Alp chalet as seen in the video game No One Lives Forever. In the second video game of this series a very interesting quote came up. “Why do you think we have our headquarters in underground caverns? It’d be a lot cheaper and more convenient to lease an office building, but then you get potential clients who don’t think you’re evil enough for the really high profile operations.” If you look at movies like the various James Bond entries, the Flint and the Matt Helm movies all the way up to the Austin Powers series, they all made the secret underground lair look cool.

So Game Masters, think about the tunnels that you use in your games. Sure they are easy to draw on graph paper, but how did they get there? What was the cost to build these tunnels? How did they become secret? A king killing the slaves that built the secret tunnels may become the avenging undead monsters encountered by the players. A missing handyman may lead to the clue that the agents are needing to find the bad guy’s underground lair. Those lines on the map may look cool, but they hide much more than the treasure the adventurers are trying to find. They hide a possible story.

(looking at the wall on the side of my office) “I wonder if the wife would notice if I put in a secret tunnel?”

Posted in: Character Creation Challenge, No One Lives Forever, Role Playing Games, Spy-Fi

Character Creation Challenge Day 23: Top Secret: New World Order

Character Creation Challenge Day 23

When I original came up with the concept of the Character Creation Challenge, I had intended to do a character write up for the Top Secret S.I. role playing game. However as I searched and searched through the boxes in my garage, I could not find the game. I had purchased many of the game supplements when they originally came out and I’m really hoping that they are still in an unopened box somewhere. However I was lucky enough to discover that the PDF version of Top Secret: New World Order role playing game was free on DriveThruRPG. At the time of this blog post, it is still free to order so I figured that it would be a good way to learn this new game from the original Top Secret designer, Merle “The Administrator” Rasmussen.

This will be the last espionage game that I will be using in the 2021 challenge. And for this entry I will be creating the character of Peter Page, another new operative to help refill the depleted ranks of UNITY. He joins agents Gary King, Andrew Knightley, Steven Prince and Oliver Chamberlain in the active field. If those names sound familiar, they are the names of the main characters from Simon Pegg’s 2013 comedy movie “The World’s End” which was the last movie in the Blood and Ice Cream trilogy.

The game uses five different types of dice. d4 (Weak), d6 (Average), d8 (Healthy), d10 (Robust) and d12 (Paragon). Sometimes the player may be instructed to “step up” or “step down” the dice depending upon the situation they players find themselves in. It also utilizes a type of exploding dice called Burst & Blowback. The burst is the highest roll of the die, and you get to roll again and add all the rolls to get the total. A blowback is rolling a natural 1 and it may or may not lead to bad results.

Characters have the following attributes. Nerve, Suave, Pulse, Intellect and Reflex. You roll percentile dice and consult a chart. Agent Page ended up with Nerve- d10, Suave- d12, Pulse- d10, Intellect- d6 and Reflex- d6.

For a random background I rolled Actor. That almost makes sense with the high nerve and suave. There is an optional rule to have an impairment selected or randomly assigned to the character. If you do this, your character also gains an additional specialized skill. I let the dice roll and Agent Page has Vertigo. Next comes languages. Again random roll stated that he knows three other languages besides his native English. These came up as Burmese, Chinese-Canton and Arabic.

The Tradecraft skills are the same as some of the attributes other than one that is the “weak area” of the agent’s training. I chose Tech as his weak area so his final Tradecraft is Human Intelligence (HUMINT) d12, Signal Intelligence (SIGINT) d6, Technical Operations (TECH) d4 and Combat d6. It appears for a skill check you will roll your attribute die + tradecraft die + asset bonuses to obtain a result that must match or exceed a certain target number. Other situations such as combat or perception will follow similar patterns. There are specialized skills your character can also obtain which will result in higher die rolls when your specialized skill matches the task. These can be improved with character advancement. I selected the specialized skills that a master-of-disguise would need to help the team.

Starting characters can purchase equipment for $3,000. There was a lot of really interesting gadgets. It referred to real life costs, which would help in a modern game. Since these characters are based in the 1960’s, I guesstimated what my character would have. Specifically a disguise kit. Here is the character sheet.

Peter Page character sheet
Peter Page character sheet

Afterthoughts:

I like how the character sheet looks like it is being read out of a folder. I also like how the attributes have grid-lines that connect it to the tradecraft that is being used. Very good design.

This was my first deep dive into the game rules. I’m really curious on how this comes out in play. I could see myself using these rules and probably homebrewing some stuff for this game.

Additional Notes:

No new additions to the link of participants in a while. But there has been a steady stream of new characters coming out on the blogs and on the social media hashtag of #CharacterCreationChallenge. Keep it up.

Coming Up Next:

Doctor Who Roleplaying Game by Cubicle 7

Posted in: Character Creation Challenge, No One Lives Forever, Role Playing Games, Spy-Fi

Character Creation Challenge Day 20: Spycraft

Character Creation Challenge Day 20

I own both version 1.0 and 2.0 of the Spycraft Roleplaying Game. I even remember going to a friends house and playing in a massive session. It may have been a Living Spycraft game or it may have been part of the Game Control (GC is the Game Master) created world. I remember we had to make a raid on a stronghouse and we spent most of the game planning our way to infiltrate and obtain the goal before we had to shoot our way out.

Being a big James Bond fan I had always been interested in espionage RPGs. This fandom was expanded by the video game series No One Lives Forever. Someday I’m going to create a sourcebook for the NOLF characters and events and I’ve always thought that Spycraft would be the system I would use for it. NOLF is where UNITY originated from that is need of new agents. Agents I am creating with this Character Creation Challenge. Today we are creating Oliver Chamberlain, who’s name I pulled from [REDACTED]. So far no one has guessed where I’m pulling these names from.

Spycraft v2.0 is a modified D20 system. The publisher added a few spins to the game to make it fit into the world of super spies and blazing guns. The first step is to create the concept. Originally I was going to make Chamberlain a Hacker since that is one of the classes in Spycraft, but then it hit me, in 1968 they didn’t really have hackers like those listed in the book. So I changed the concept to Intruder. Basically an infiltration expert that is also good at getting equipment by any means necessary.

As a D20 system, it has the standard attributes. STR, DEX, CON INT, WIS and CHA. However you don’t roll the 3d6 to generate the scores. Like the EverQuest RPG, you start out with a base score of 8 and then you have so many points to increase the attributes you want to use. For Spycraft you have 36 points and a chart with a rising score cost (slightly different than the EQRPG) Chamberlain needed a good DEX and WIS score so I concentrated there. Next you selected your Origin which consisted of Talents and Specialties. These would almost make up a background history to build upon, but they would also adjust your ability scores amongst other things. Chamberlain is an Orphaned Criminal. After adjusting the stats he ended up with the following. STR: 10, DEX: 17, CON: 11, INT: 10, WIS: 15, CHA: 10.

I wrote down the information for the Intruder class. The skills were very detailed with sub-skills that are automatically gained underneath and result caps. It was all very crunchy. But I selected the skills I thought that an Intruder would need to be successful. I also selected Burglar for his level 1 feat. I noticed that the feats are just as detailed as the skills are. Very crunchy, which isn’t a bad thing for detailed play. Next you selected interests (hobbies basically) which may add bonuses to certain checks if the GC agrees. Now we are up to step 7 which his selecting a sub-plot. Chamberlain has a nemesis (which I won’t create now) that may pop up every once in a while.

Next step is filling in the missing blanks like Vitality Points (i.e. hit points) and the like. I’m glad that the RAW has the 1st level characters starting out at max VP. I filled in the rest of the items as instructed. Then we got to the gearing up. Again the game had a lot of details here. If I was just starting a campaign, I’d ask the GC for a few items appropriate for my class (lock picks, rope) a weapon (pistol with a silencer) and a motorcycle and I called it good. I’m sure the excess detail will make sense if I was actually playing, but for this challenge, I’m done. Here is the character sheet.

Character sheet for Oliver Chamberlain
Character sheet for Oliver Chamberlain

Afterthoughts:

I love it when a RPG book contains a quick guide for character creation in one location so you can see all of the steps at once. The Spycraft 2.0 book did this very well with some sections color coded. However even with this helpful section, there were still sections that I would have relied on a GC to answer any questions. I know that there are sections of the sheet that are blanks.

Overall though I could see myself playing this system like I had before. I think the GC at the time was someone connected with the publisher of the game so he explained it very easily. Plus, as I mentioned above, we did more role-playing than dice rolling. But as I was assembling this character and reading the rules, my mind started homebrewing stats for agents I had seen in video games and other media.

Additional Notes:

I’ve noticed that Twitter’s hashtag search is much more efficent and user-friendly than Facebook’s. I haven’t come across any new blogs or message boards yet. But I am very impressed with some of the blog entries. While I’m reading them, I feel like I’m sitting down at the table with the writer as they explain the character. Plus I’m seeing some very interesting insights on some of the different games out there. Keep it up.

Coming Up Next:

The Prime Directive D20 RPG

Posted in: Character Creation Challenge, James Bond, No One Lives Forever, Role Playing Games, Spy-Fi

Character Creation Challenge Day 16: James Bond 007

Character Creation Challenge Day 16

I have been a huge fan of the James Bond franchise ever since I saw my first movie in the 80’s. Besides the movies I’ve read the books and the comics. Roger Moore was the first Bond I saw in the theater, but I love all of the actors who have played the part. So when Victory Games released the James Bond 007: Role Playing In Her Majesty’s Secret Service Basic Game, I as immediately interested. Unfortunately I never found a group to play with when this game was widely available. So in order to get a taste of the game, I decided to use this game as one of my entries for the Character Creation Challenge. While the original game is no longer being printed, Expeditious Retreat Press did release a retro-clone game called Classified.

As I did with Top Secret and Mercenaries, Spies and Private Eyes, the character that will be created for the James Bond 007 RPG will be another new UNITY field agent. This is to replace the depleted ranks in UNITY after the events of the video game series No One Lives Forever. And in keeping with the common source for names, today I will be creating Steven Prince (has anyone guessed the movie I’m taking the names from?)

Agents in the James Bond RPG have Characteristics (primary attributes) with scores ranging from 1-15. At a minimum, agents need a score in 5 for each category. The five Characteristics are Strength (STR), Dexterity (DEX), Willpower (WIL), Perception (PER) and Intelligence (INT). Characters are created by Generation Points. The higher the rank of the character (Rookie, Agent or “00”) the more Generation Points are needed at the time of creation. As Agent Prince is a new agent, I will be going with the Rookie rank with 3,000 GP. One of the first things that the RAW has you spending your points on is your character’s height and weight. The more common the size, the higher the GP, but you also start out with less Fame Points. Fame Points is the likelihood that someone may have heard of your character (or did some digging on your character’s background and history). As much as I didn’t want to spend too much on just the Height, I didn’t feel like the character would be greatly known. So I ended up going with a height 6’2” which cost me 120 GP and earned 10 FP. For the weight I spent 160 GP for a weight of 200 and 5 more Fame Points. For Appearance, I selected Attractive (I wanted the agent to look good, but not too good) for a cost of 120 GP and 20 more Fame Points.

Now we can finally start spending Generation Points on the Characteristics. I wanted Agent Prince to be a driver. So I spent the points and selected the following stats. STR: 7, DEX: 11, WIL: 7, PER: 10, INT: 6. After determining these, they also gave the results to some secondary characteristics which I then wrote down on the character sheet.

Agent Prince was a person who grew up getting in trouble with the law before he turned straight, so he was aware of how the law worked and forensics. His cover story is that he is a race car driver. I selected the appropriate Fields of Experience and Skills and calculated their statistics. For his primary weapon, I selected the HK VP-70 and wrote down the stats. Here is the charcter sheet.

Character sheet for Steven Prince.

Afterthoughts:

Usually the characteristics of appearance, weight an height come at the end of a character creation process. It was interesting seeing it at the start. But in the world of James Bond you’ve got a lot of attractive people running around saving the world. So it makes a little bit of sense that you would want to get that out of the way before all of the GP was spent.

I think that if this was a regular game I could create characters more easily. But the walk through for character creation was mostly straight forward.

Additional Notes:

Thanks to a Facebook post in one of the many gaming groups, I’ve found another participant in the Character Creation Challenge. I have added a link to the blog on the CCC page.

Coming Up Next:

The Last Unicorn Games entry into the Star Trek universe.

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