Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Uzite Law

Uzite law is primarily interested in the settlement of disputes.  While today the law extends to all social strata, it was originally meant to curtail violence between the cities noble houses, which still exert a great amount of power today.  In the days of Uz of Uz, First King of Uz, the other nobles who joined him in the founding of the city - guided by the Fuel-Less Fire of Moloch - did not always see eye to eye.  They and their families would often quarrel and commit horribly violent acts in response to perceived slights.  Those affiliated with the victim would then retaliate with even worse acts, and thus a blood-feud would threaten to tear the First City of Men apart.

At some point - Phutians claim that it was during the Phutian occupation, but Uzites vehemently dispute this - one of the kings decided to create a strict code of law for the purpose of adjudicating these disputes without the nead for a blood-feud.  This system worked so well - or at least it did in the eyes of the noble houses - that it has been extended to even cover disputes between slaves and foreigners.  In this system, the accuser must bring the accused before a judge.  The judge then hears both sides and finally rules in accordance with the byzantine case law that develops in a city that has existed for several thousand years.  Punishment is then executed by the accuser or the accuser's family - unless of course the accused is found innocent in which case the punishment is then turned on the accuser himself!

The instances of case law and the punishments that accompany them are based on a strict heirarchy.  Nobles are treated as superior to freemen and slaves, and thus punishments for crimes against them are more severe.  Typical crimes against nobles are punished on an "eye for an eye" basis, but disputes between nobles might change this if the nobles are practically of different ranks.  A lesser son of the house of Adompha would, for example, be punished quite severly for harming Mari-Adab, but the inverse would likely lead to only a public censure for the Prince of Pleasures.

Commoners and slaves are typically charged money for their offenses, unless they are against a noble of course.  This even includes crimes such as murder, as the nobles believe that allowing commoners - or worse, slaves - an outlet for sanctioned violence would put silly ideas in there heads. 

Foreigners are even lower in this heirarchy than slaves.  They are almost always convicted of crimes and regardless of the severity of their offense the punishment always involves mutilation if not downright execution.  Interestingly, this is not based onlong lines of lineage as it is often true that Phutians have lived in the city longer than some who would call themselves Uzites.  Instead, the accused or accuser must provide witnesses to their provinence, which is often difficult if one is dragged in bonds before a court.

This system results in some interesting peculiarities.  First, petty theft - while technically illegal - is allowed to occur since it would be a hassle to involve the king's court.  As such, one would do well to guard one's purse carefully while enjoying one of the vintages of Ilion in one of the city's many wine-houses or shopping for goods along the Street of Sins.  Second, mob violence is surprisingly common since the law does little to address Uz's underlying problems.  This is less true during the reign of a strong king, but Dagazar I has had a short reign by Uzite standards and sits rather precariously on his throne.  Finally, blasphemy and witchcraft are the only crimes not treated with this system because they are tried in special temple courts.  The nature of these courts is mysterious to most Uzites, and few that have ever stood before them have lived to discuss the proceedings.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Thoughts on D&D and Wargaming

When I was in high school, I was in a club called the Military History Society, which was really a euphemism for a wargaming club.  We met in the library about once a month to fight battles from various conflicts - though the only scenario I can remember that didn't involve American soldiers was set during Operation Barbarosa - using the teacher/organizer's miniatures.  Most of these were, due to the nature of his collection, horse and musket era affairs and I usually try to convince everyone to let me be a cavalry commander.  I only succeeded in doing this one time, and then only because there were so few participants that even the teacher had to double as referee and general.  In my crowning moment of glory, I ordered a charge into a number of disorganized blue-belly reinforcements that had just gotten off of a train, pinned them against it, and destroyed them.  It was a good day.

But I didn't decide to write this post in order to wax nostalgic about playing wargames.*  What I remember about those games is that the organizer almost always brought a photocopied set of rules with a number of marginal notes and house rules that anyone used to the tournament environments of post-Games Workshop wargames would balk at.  It occurred to me several months ago, during one of the infamous Hill Cantons after-session-bull-sessions, that these documents must have been very much like the wargaming climate that created OD&D.  The rules were more of a set of suggestions for the individual clubs, like primitive roleplaying groups, used to create their own scenarios.

Recently I've been reading a number of "old school" wargaming books - Charge! Or How to Play Wargames by Peter Young, The War Game Rules and The Wolfenbuttel War by Charles S Grant, and Napoleonic Wargaming by the original Charles Grant - as part of my ongoing imagi-nations project. One thing I have observed in them is the fact that they fully expect the rules to be modified and often say so, much like one sees in the text of OD&D.  Napoleonic Wargaming is almost a set of guidelines for making a wargame than a complete game, though a "summary of the rules" section does present something that is somewhat coherent as a game.

Another thing that I noticed was the similarities between these various rules, but also their tiny differences.  It is not unlike, at least to my mind, the differences between Holmes, Moldvay/Cook, and Mentzer, even if those products came at a time when D&D was designed to be much more uniform from table to table.

I say all this because I believe that if the OSR has really "won," a phrase I have seen in a strangely high number of places, it is because so many groups have returned to this model of gaming.  One only has to look at the blog list over to your right to see several examples of this sort of thing in action - DMs and their groups customizing a very similar set of rules to achieve different experiences.

*Actually, I totally did, but I have another point too.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

The Mocking Ones

Mocking One
No. Appearing: 1d6 (3d6)
Armor Class: As Leather and Shield
Hit Dice: 2
Movement: 90'
Attacks: Slam (no damage but Paralysis) or Claw
Special: Paralyzing Slime, Mimicry
Morale: 7
Alignment: Neutral

The mocking ones are strange creatures born eons ago in the great underworlds of ancient Mars.  In the distant time before the Deluge, they may have come to Earth through any trades humans may have once had with the martians, or simply on martian warships.  On Earth they live much as the did on Mars, squatting in underground ruins and caverns of suitable size to support their eating habits.

They appear as enormous balls of pallid white flesh with rudimentary eyes and mouths.  Their arms are little more than flippers or rude tendrils covered with a milky yellow substance.  Their legs are thin and strangely black and squamous, ending in sharp talons.  They are known for their strange gait, which is obviously caused by their unusual body shape.

Mocking ones are master mimics of sound, and can produce a wide variety of noises through the strange undulations of their mouth and vibrations from deep within their fleshy mass.  Sight unseen, it is nearly impossible for humans to differentiate the sounds made by a mocking one from those made by the thing they are imitating.  Since they tend to live in underground/dungeon environments, the sounds they produce range from such things as doors slamming, humans screaming in agony, the bellowing of ancient monsters, or the din of battle.  A group of these creatures would make a strange set of sounds indeed!

These calls are typically used for matting, with particularly hard to replicate dungeon sounds presumably being more impressive to the females of the species.  It also sometimes has the effect of luring in prey, which mocking ones typically first subdue with their paralyzing flippers (paralyzation lasts 3d6 rounds, though a subsquent save made while still paralyzed may lengthen this time to 3d6 turns).  After all creatures are paralyzed, and not before, the mocking ones will begin to slowly dismantle their meal with their claws and mouth, dealing 1d3 damage each round.

Monday, March 3, 2014

Fable of a Failed Race

When Uz of Uz First King of Uz found the Fuel-Less Fire on the banks of the River of Life, It told him of the marvels and wonders of the Desert of Demons and the Worlds Beyond Counting.  With the Fire's words he lived many lives in strange lands on strange worlds.  When the Fire's words ceased he built the First City of Men.

But there was one place in all his lives that he did not tread, for the Fire had warned him.  North of the Sea of Salt was, and is, a land that is the dwelling place of Mot, and no man should venture there.  But men did.  There they built a city.  Jerah, City of the Worm squatted hideously on the banks of the Sea of Salt.  The men of That Place dealt in death and their ghoul-priests reveled and sang litanies to He Who Must Be Obeyed, a strange and almost forgotten aspect of the Dweller in Darkness.  They said He taught laws older than time, older than Fire.  The Laws of the Fretting Worm were harsh and demanding and the soldier-fanatics of Jerah spread them as far as the Almodad, the Jewel of the Desert.

The women of That Place bore an intolerable yoke the likes of which is unseen in this day even among the savage Phutians.  Daily were members of their sex cast into His maw and great and terrible was their suffering.  In their sorrow and horror they called out and they were heard by Li-Lit of the Night.  For the first time She Who is Over Her Slaughtering Block came down from the high mountains with daggers of light.  She struck at Mot and thus did Death strike Death.  In the City of the Warrior Women, known to the men of Uz as New Jerah, they say that She Who Devours Infants made Mot blind and cast him back into the Dark.

Now Jerah is no more.  The ruins of that smashed city still remain like bleached bones on the shore, but only fools venture to the place where He Who Pulls into His Gullet dwells.   

Friday, February 7, 2014

Everybody's Gotta Start Somewhere

Inspired by blogs such as the Grand Duchy of Stollen and the Kingdom of Wittenberg, as well as a number of others, I decided around the end of last year to engage in an "imagi-nation" wargaming project.  I originally considered chronicling the fictitious struggles between the Republic of West Florida and Fredonia, but found that War of 1812-style miniatures were rather rare in the 1/72 scale plastics I wanted to use.  

After doing a bit more research on rules, the availability of miniatures, and the history of wargaming I settled on a project: the early nineteenth century wars between the Grand Duchy of Rotland and the Kingdom (formerly Electorate) of Blauland.  The names of the countries - Redland and Blueland - are taken from the opposing sides in the original Prussian wargames, and I plan on having a number of German color pun related countries orbiting the two main players.

Kristina Grand Duchess of Rotland in her typically outdated fashions

Johann I King of Blauland, a well meaning crazy person

The two states are pitifully small and are often forgotten by even the most minor powers of the Napoleonic wars.  They have, however, taken the opportunity presented by the current hostilities in Europe to settle old scores.  Neither the Grand Duchess nor the King are really sure who this Boney guy is, but surely their rival must be in league with him and stricken with this "French madness."

The armies of Rotland have begun marshaling an invasion force which they hope will cross the Grosseblau in mid September, a mere six months after the declaration of war.  Below you can see the first company of the First Fusilier Regiment of Rotland drilling before the upcoming invasion.

I am unreasonably proud of those little guys, which I just completed last night.  I've written a scenario, which I will put in a little sidebar, that I'm using to dictate what troops I'll need before I get a game going.

I thought about starting a blog solely to chronicle my wargaming experiences, but figured there was probably enough overlap that I could put my stuff up here.

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Alternate Ship Combat Rules for Starships and Spacemen (1st Draft)

Someone recommended I use Starships and Spacemen for War on the Final Frontier. I initially scoffed at this, since I didn't think I wanted a level based system, but after some thought I'm warming up to it. However, I don't really like ship combat. "Balance of Terror" is my favorite TOS episode, and it basically defines how I want space combat to work in anything. The computer game FTL is also a good model. With those things in mind, I designed this. I hope to playtest it tomorrow with my home group.

I'll be adding a link to the google doc in the documents section. When I update this system, I'll be updating the doc, not this page.

This system is designed to give more players something to do during space combat, as well as to replicate the sorts of space battles one sees in the Star Trek films and in games like Star Fleet Battles and Federation commander.

Engagements still begin at 300,000 miles away from each other and have the option of moving 30,000 miles per turn.

At the beginning of each round, the Captain - the Command officer on board with the highest rank - of each ship rolls 1d6 and adds their intelligence bonus.  The highest ship moves first.  All action on a ship is considered to happen simultaneously.

Each player takes control of one console on the starship.  These consoles are Weapons (Combat), Science (Science), Engineering (Technical), Comms (Contact), and Helm (not associated with any skill, but best suited for Navigators).  Each turn, the player may perform one action at his or her station.  To perform the action, simply roll the skill check associated with it.  

Characters that possess a primary skill in one of the functions of the station but not the skill required for the station level itself are considered 3 levels lower than their actual level.  If this means their level is less than 1, they cannot perform any actions at the console.

Consoles manned by NPCs cannot employ functions beyond the original combat rules; NPCs can fire the ships weapons or move the ship, but do little else.  An exception is made for this below.

The player at Weapons console selects which weapons will be fired this round and at what targets.  The player must select either the phaser banks or the photon torpedos, and the ship may only fire a number of photon torpedos at a time based on its class.  Otherwise firing functions as in the original rules.  Ship skill is only used if the console is manned by an NPC, otherwise the player uses their combat skill.  Fire Control characters still have a +2 bonus to using these weapons.

The weapons console may also be used to fire a tractor beam.  This does no damage but holds a ship in place, which is particularly useful against ships that are trying to flee.  To do this spend 5 energy and make a Science test.  If the test is successful, the target is caught in a tractor beam.  Every round thereafter the tractored ship may attempt to break out by bidding a number of EUs.  For each EU they bid, the tractoring ship must match their

The player at the Science console may either attempt to use their phaser frequency to bypass the enemies shields, dealing damage directly to the ship, or target specific systems if the shields are down.

To bypass the enemies shields, make a Technical skill test.  If the roll is successful, all phaser damage this round is dealt directly to the ship.

To target specific systems, make a Science skill test.  This may only be attempted when the enemies shields are offline.  A successful test, when coupled with a successful hit, will neutralize an enemy console until it is repaired by damage control.

Characters at the Engineering console may willingly sacrifice EUs in order to power other systems, boost the shields, or perform damage control.

To boost power to other systems, make a Technical skill test.  If successful the player may spend 5 EUs to add another die of damage to the phaser banks (including all phaser shots that connect), or to double the distance moved by the helm.  

To boost power to the shields make a Science skill test.  If successful the player may spend 5 EUs to completely restore them; however, if they are offline the cost is 10 EUs.

To perform damage control make a Technical skill test.  If successful, restore 1d6 EUs to the ship or restore a disabled system.

The player at the Comms console may jam enemy communications, attempt to contact the enemy, or to attempt to contact starfleet or other allies.

To jam the enemy communications make a Science test.  If successful, the enemy ship cannot use any Comms station functions and cannot perform damage control.

To attempt to contact the enemy make a Contact test.  If successful the player may talk to the enemy captain.  This can be used to taunt enemies and draw them away from ships which you may be protecting.

To attempt to contact an allie make a Contact test.  If successful the player is able to get a subspace message to the nearest allied ship, though their is no guarantee they will be within range to do anything about it.

The player at the Helm console chooses whether will move this round, perform evasive maneuvers, or attempt a ram.

Moving does not require any kind of skill check.  Simply state whether your moving towards or away from the enemy.

Evasive maneuvers require a Combat skill test.  If successful the next attack made against the ship has a -2 penalty.

Ramming may only be done when within Torpedo range of an enemy ship.  To attempt a ram roll a Combat skill test.  If successful both ships are typically destroyed, though this may not be true for certain “space monsters.”

The captain is not technically a console but functions much like one.  This position is always held by the highest ranking Command officer on the ship.  The captain may attempt to aid a player at a console or to command an NPC at one.

To aid a player, make a skill test for the same skill that they are using this round.  If successful the player gains a +2 bonus to their skill.

To command an NPC, simply choose the console you wish to use this round and run it as though you were the player at that console.

Remember that player at each console and the captain may only take one of these actions in a round.

Enemy ships are typically treated as though they had a player captain (the Star Master) and the rest of the consoles controlled by NPCs.  Exceptions will be made for certain ships, particularly those the Star Master wishes to serve as a “rival crew.”

This alternate system uses shields instead of screens.  Unlike beam vs phaser weapons or photon vs ionic torpedos, this is more than a semantic difference.  Shields are essentially a set of temporary armor that exists on top of a ships EUs.  Thus a ship must have its shields go down due to damage before it can take direct EU damage.

For the purpose of conversion, and just as a general rule, most ships have a shield rating equal to 1/4 their EUs (rounded up).

Disrupters are special weapons found on Klingon ships.  They may be fired at Fireball range and deal 1d10 x 5 damage.

If an enemy’s shields are down, the captain may choose to send over a boarding party, but must lower his or her ship’s shields in order to do so.  These can only be brought back up with a successful Technical skill check made at the engineering console.  This check does not count as the Engineer’s action.  The rest of these rules are abstract and presume a team of NPC enlisted men rather than a PC boarding party.  PC boarding parties may make for an interesting adventure, but running them simultaneously with space combat is a headache I would wish on no Star Master.

Marnies typically are sent to disable certain systems.  For every 3 people a ship is capable of transporting, you may target one system.  To see if their mission is successful, roll on the table below for each team.

Marine Raid Table

If the marines disable the system, that console can no longer be used until it is repaired with damage control.

Marines could hypothetically attempt to gain control of a ship.  The simplest way of doing this is to target the Bridge instead of a system.  Roll on the table above, but add 1 to the die roll for each difference in size between the defending ship and the attacking ship.

New Ships
These ships are designed to more closely resemble the ships of the Star Fleet Universe. PC crews will be assigned to one type at the beginning of the campaign, and unless special circumstances arise they are unlikely to switch.  Command ranks are given for determining the level of an NPC Captain.

Smaller ships used for small missions or as escorts.

Crew Complement: 150
Command Rank: Ensign
Nacelle Power Base: 100 EUs (two half nacelles)
Shield Capacity: 25
Teleporter Capacity: 3 at a time
Phaser Banks: 1
Photon Torpedos: 6 Total; 1 at a time
Shuttlecraft: 1
Sick Bay Capacity: 20

War Destroyer
Crew Complement: 200
Command Rank: Lieutenant
Nacelle Power Base: 150 EUs (three half nacelles)
Shield Capacity: 40
Teleporter Capacity: 4 at a time
Phaser Banks: 2
Photon Torpedos: 9; 1 at a time
Shuttlecraft: 2
Sick Bay Capacity: 40

New Light Cruiser
Crew Complement: 250
Command Rank: Commander
Nacelle Power Base: 200 EUs (two nacelles)
Shield Capacity: 50
Teleporter Capacity: 6 at a time
Phaser Banks: 3
Photon Torpedos: 10; 2 at a time
Shuttlecraft: 3
Sick Bay Capacity: 50

New Heavy Cruiser
Crew Complement: 300
Command Rank: Captain
Nacelle Power Base: 300 EUs (three nacelles)
Shield Capacity: 75
Teleporter Capacity: 7 at a time
Phaser Banks: 4
Photon Torpedos: 12; 2 at a time
Shuttlecraft: 4
Sick Bay Capacity: 75

Battle Cruiser
Crew Complement: 400
Command Rank: Commodore
Nacelle Power Base: 400 EUs (two double nacelles)
Shield Capacity: 100
Teleporter Capacity: 9 at a time
Phaser Banks: 5
Photon Torpedos: 18; 3 at a time (For Kirov Battle Cruisers); 12; 2 at a time Fireballs (for Bismark Battle Cruisers)
Shuttlecraft: 5
Sick Bay Capacity: 100.

Crew Complement: 450
Command Rank: Admiral
Nacelle Power Base: 600 (Three Double Nacelles)
Shield Capacity: 150
Teleporter Capacity: 12 at a time
Phaser Banks: 6
Photon Torpedos: 24; 3 at a time or 18; 3 at a time Fireballs
Shuttlecraft: 6
Sick Bay Capacity: 150

The stats above are for Federation ships.  For Klingon ships, substitute Disruptors for Photon Torpedos and ignore the total number.  For Romulan ships, add a cloaking device and change photon torpedos to fireballs.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

War on the Final Frontier

A number of years ago - just a bit longer than a generation - a number of independent companies began the privately funded colonization of the Arucanis Arm.  This remote section of space is believed to contain a number of species and civilizations that the Federation has yet to contact.  Needless to say, the Federation government was alarmed but at the time its leaders decided to respect the right of the colonists, who were mostly humans but with a few members of other Federation species, to self determination.

But war does strange things to people, and the war with the Klingons has gone on longer than any in the Federation expected.  The current stalemate as well as rumors that the Klingon empire is seeking an alliance with the Romulans have made the Federation council desperate.  They have begun seeking their own allies in unlikely places, and a number of council members believe that it is time someone investigate the situation in the Arucanis Arm.

The Arm lies in an extremely strategically important are where the initial Klingon advance at the beginning of the war managed to create a sliver of Klingon occupied space between the Federation and the semi-independent colonies.  If the colonies and unknown civilizations of the Arm could be convinced to join the Federation in the war, the Klingons' main supply lines to the front would be severed.

You are the crew of the USS Reliant and your mission is to survey the systems Arucanis Arm, make contact with the colonists as well as the unknown species, and convince them to join the war against the Klingons.  The Reliant is a New Light Cruiser, a wartime design that provides a not inconsiderable amount of firepower at a relatively low cost.  Unfortunately, this is possible due to the fact that much of the crew amenities have been stripped out, and thus this assignment is more spartan than a Federation exploration or battle cruiser.  However, the Reliant was chosen for a very specific reason: the common nature of its class will mean that the Klingons are less alarmed by its crossing their borders into the Arucanis Arm.  The Federation feels that any other ship would likely tip the Klingons off to the purpose of the mission, and thus endanger it.

Starfleet has made contact with the company that settled the closest section of the arm, now a small merchant empire headed by one Harcourt Fenton Mudd, a criminal from Federation space and fairly recent arrival to the Arm.  How he came to be in charge of the company is as yet a mystery, but he has agreed to help the Federation in exchange for amnesty and possible asylum at some future point.  The aid he is willing to provide at this point does not include fighting men or ships, but his company can offer their space stations to the Reliant for refueling and shore leave.  Mudd is also adamant that Starfleet inform you that he has quite a few suggestions for the latter purpose.


This posts premise and title is taken from the somewhat obscure game Protostar: War on the Frontier, which the internet consistently tells me is mediocre at best.  However, I thought it had a good setup for a game that would be easily adaptable for settings of most any genre, though sci fi is obviously the easiest for it to port to.  I have expressed it in terms of Star Trek rather than Traveller partly because I think those terms are more broadly familiar, and partly because I've had a deep desire to run Star Trek that coincides with, and to some degree predates, my recent Traveller mania.

If I were to keep it Trek, I'd almost certainly borrow from a number of "non-canon" sources including the material for Star Trek Phase II (the unaired series, not the fan series with the same name), the closely related Star Fleet Universe (including that ship design up there), FASA's Star Trek supplements, and the animated series.  I'm not sure what system I'd use.  The two options that I would be most likely to look at are a kitbashed Traveller converted for Star Trek shenanigans or FASA Trek itself.  The first has some advantages, namely that I know I like the system and I have a bunch of red, blue, and yellow d6s, but it would probably take the most work.  Having looked at FASA Trek recently I see a lot to like there, but I'd probably have to houserule the combat into basically being regular old BRP combat before I'd use it.

I could also use part of the Terran Directorate setting, exchanging the Klingons for [Click], but there are a number of adventure ideas I can think of for this that would work better with Star Fleet do-gooders.