Game Review #44 – Module X1 Isle of Dread (Expert D&D-1981) (M)

Hello Readers

So this post is going to be a little different. I have created links in most of my review posts to Wikipedia so that relevant topics can be examined more in depth. I have also noted that with those reviews, the more links I post the more spam comments I get that I need to delete from my in box, so I am going to use a game module to try and do one up with no links. Lets see how it goes.

In any event… on with the review.

Dungeon Module (already a misnomer because this ain’t no dungeon) X1 – The Isle of Dread is originally a module that introduced me to a few things that… well it sort of changed the way I looked at game modules. Admittedly it was early in my gaming career, and the module came in the original D&D Expert Rules boxed set…


… and totally set up to take advantage of the new rules added in that set. Ohhh look at those old hard edged dice that you needed to use a crayon to fill in… or some of your moms candles…. yeahhh


This module introduced me to a few things. Pages you could cut out and use as character props for the players. I mean seriously you can just cut the pages out and hand them to the players and say “Oh yeah you found this…”. The island itself is fairly big, and so there are a lot of supplementary maps inside the module. Most surprising though in the maps is that the cover interior is not the major map of the island, it is the map for one of the potential story lines that you can participate in while on the island.

And yeah you read that right… this little thirty page module has a main plot, and several encounters just like any good module. However this module also has notes that give you methods to keep things going on the island.

Now then the other thing that this module introduced me to is the idea that using dinosaurs in a fantasy setting was perfectly fine. I mean when I looked into the Monster Manual I could see dinosaurs, but this gave me examples of how I can use them in games by setting up several encounters that sorta feel like King Kong in a fantasy setting and I am not the only person who has said that.

The new creatures introduced work really well in the setting, and to a certain degree can be  moved into the rest of the game realm, well that is assuming that you are using the published D&D realms.


One of my favorite added creatures is the Phanaton, sort of like a mix between a raccoon, a flying squirrel and a halfling, who lives in a jungle.

The main adventure can take you all over the island, or you can get really targeted. On the map below you can see over twenty encounter areas called out. Getting through the core story takes hitting four of them. The rest is all optional.

dread map

I have used this module for a number of things in the past. Being that it is set up for Expert D&D it is really easy to covert over into AD&D or to 3.0/3.5 D&D/Pathfinder. I have had one group of players decide that after clearing out the main story, they wanted to make the island their secret HQ and so they had to clear out the rest of the main encounters, like the pirates, make friends with the natives and try to tame the dinos. In another case I make this a step in the path for a larger series of modules that I had tied together to make one big story. I have also used it as a training ground location for Rangers. I took out most of the encounters for that last one

All in all I really enjoy the location and the balance of information in the module. And apparently I am not the only one as I hear that it is being reprinted by a third party to be updated into 5th ed D&D.

Ok so lets see how I number it up…

Overall Fluff 4/5 – The art is good ( I mean just look at those little Phanaton welcoming that poor confused human who soooooo needs them). Props are good, maps are great. The only thing it is light on is details about the island history. But that is sort of how modules at the time.

Overall Crunch 3/5 – The only real rules added were for new creatures. And they work. However some of the creature mechanics are not balanced.

Overall Mod 5/5 – It is old school D&D, so you can mod the crud out of it.

Overall Fun 4/5 – If you did not guess, I think this is a lot of fun. The only reason I cant give it a five is because the colelctor in me wants to keep the module fully in tact, the passionate GM in me wants to rip out the appropriate pages and hand them to players….

Total Score 16/20 – Not a bad score in the end. Overall I really enjoy this product and when I flashback to the fun modules in the 80’s this is one of the ones that is always at the top of my memory

Well I hope you all enjoyed my first linkless review.

Now gimme the dice, I need to see how many brontosaurs it takes to fill in a volcano…



Seasonal pains

Howdy readers…

No serious post this week. Tis the start of allergy season and I am not focusing well so I would likely ramble more than usual. Just putting this in place so that folks know the blog is alive, just covered in Kleenex this week…

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Tales from the Game Table – My favorite Deaths 1

Ok so everyone knows that in an RPG the death of your character is something that may happen. If you are playing something like Call of Cthulhu then a good death may be the best you can hope for… But there comes for all of us who game the high and low points in the death of a character. Sometimes a death is a good one in which we go out in a blaze of glory becoming the person of legend who will be remembered until at least the next game session. Sometimes the death of a character is just… plain… stupid.

Well when you see the My favorite Deaths header on a tales from the game table I am going to be talking about some of the best, worst or most inconclusive deaths I have ever put a character through… as a player and as a GM.

Gonna roll this out with one of my personal favorite deaths that happened to one of my own characters.

So the entire party was camped around the fire in the middle of no where. This was not the most cliche of nights but hey no one ever said this game group was subtle. And suddenly a lich. Just roll with it.

Everyone jumps up and gets running into fighting mode, because yeah, we bad. My character tries to use his freakish magically enhanced speed to grab a log from the fire and charge into the lich, Because its undead, and undead hate fire right?

So when you have boots of speed, potion of speed, a haste ring and have had training to go faster, well… yeah you got some speed. I figured if nothing else I would distract it so the others could do something.

Oh and just as a note this was in AD&D first edition. With a GM who felt that if you roll a one you botch and a twenty is a critical hit…

Soooooooooooooo…. yeah super high speed character with a flaming log charging realllllly powerful undead ickyness. You might think you know where this is going but you are only partly right…

So I rolled to hit with  a charge with my flaming log of speed…. and I botch…

I am stumbling, trying not to kill myself as I go speed stumbling past the lich…

And the lich attacks, With a clothes line… And a crit… It was starting to look like a bad pro wrestling moment but it gets worse.

The stumble and the clothes line crit were actually enough to kill the character…. and yet the lich, having been insulted by the fact that my character would attack it physically with something so mundane as a log, used its next action to cast disintegrate on my character. Who is already dead.. and still tumbling through the air…

And I almost botch the save.

Fortunately there was enough ash that could be assembled and poured into my magic boots that a cleric could be found to bring me back later….

But yeah…

That was….



Ok so gimme the dice… I need to make saving throws against my own dumb ideas.


Game Review #43 – Marvel Super Heroes Official Handbook to the Marvel Universe (S)

So a while back I did a review for the main rules for this game on this post here. Since that post has tons of links to things about Marvel Comics and TSR I did not want to over do the links and repeat myself a lot so I only will be adding new links to this post. If readers think that approach sucks just let me know and I can copy over older links again later. For the moment this article will only have new links that are part of this products story.

To tell that story we need to look back to 1983 to get things started. Marvel Comics started up a series of comics book guides called The Official Handbook to the Marvel Universe.


Yeah I know you are wondering why this is going to be important to a licensed RPG product that shares the same name. Just run with it I am giving you a history lesson… a little one…

In 1985 DC Comics followed up with their own version of this kind of guide book called Who’s Who.


Also in 1985 Marvel started to publish the Deluxe Edition version of the Official Handbooks.


Ok so here is where we tie it all together. In 1986 Marvel and TSR had gotten together to print up the Advanced version of the Marvel Super Heroes role playing game. And to that point in time the adventures that had been published for the games basic version usually had all the characters the adventure was written for included inside. But what about everyone else in the Marvel Universe… So in 1988 using the format of the Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe Deluxe Edition, TSR started publishing a complete set of the Handbook Characters. It was a truly epic idea. And they worked rather hard to keep not only the feel of the Deluxe Edition handbook, but make everything they could game relevant.


Ok do you get it now… see where I was going with the pics and stuff…. heh… see I even kept things all around the same issues so that I could use Cap… sigh… ok yeah its obvious…

The main competition in the Mayfair Games DC Heroes game did not try anything this epic to keep people interested in the game, but later licenses did try to put at least rouges galleries together.

The books that were published by TSR had a large number of characters per book. They were also designed (look closely at the pic of Cap’s character sheet above) to be placed in binders. You did have to tear the book apart to be able to put everything in binders. But there was a reason behind their method of doing things that way. It was because as Updates came out to the Handbook in Marvel, TSR would be putting out updates at the same time. The game updates were designed so that if you did pull everything apart and put the sheets together in binders you could keep every character in alphabetical order and keep updated characters together so you would have different versions in the same place and not have to go hunting.

The anal retentive part of me thought that this was a great idea and so when I did finally start to collect the books I was right into binders with them. That was when I found the first down side. The holes for the binder clasps did not match up from book to book. And some of the perforations to break the books down into their pages are so close to the binder holes you cannot expect the holes to actually be intact enough to work all the time. Now then I have seen this change book to book and not all copies of the same issue have the same problem. So you will be really hit or miss.

The second flaw that I have with the books is that they really pushed to get all of this material out as soon as they could and so converting characters from one medium to another can leave some pretty serious issues in translation. Considering the original handbooks listed things like strength levels with statements like “Has the strength of a human who engages in moderate regular exercise” how do you translate that into game stats. And with the FASERIP (see the other article on this game system for a better look at that acronym) system for stats that statement can give you a fairly broad range of physical strength. That combined with other challenges in translation means that there will be a percentage of characters that do not match up with someones point of view. A few characters I really like just seem so wrong in their stats, but their powers work well, or the other way around. But I have found no character that I would say is 100% wrong.

Anyone taking a look at this product today will also have to remember that these are stats for the characters at the time of publication. Many of them have changed and grown, so you cannot really reference todays characters as being 100% the same as they were when these were published, but they should give you a great start.

So lets take a look at the numbers…

Overall Fluff 4/5 – In some ways these books can be seen as all fluff. Backgrounds and art along with character sheets to get you in the game with your favorite Marvel characters. My biggest issue with the fluff is that I would have loved to see even a little more art.

Overall Crunch 4/5 – The biggest benefit that I got from these books was how to combine some of the more… poorly defined powers in the game together to create effects that really fit the characters. For me that insight into the rules really helped me play the game better.

Overall Mod 3/5 – I am giving this a 3 because I promise you there will be characters you have to mod to fit your view of them. Cant make everyone happy I know. So just taking that into account.

Overall Fun 4/5 – Ok so only a four on the score here because of the physical flaws in the books I got and for the number of characters I have to mod up to fit my view of them. Still it is a fun system, and I think it is really cool that they took the handbooks and converted them like this as directly as possible.

Total Score 15/20 – I think my reasons stand for themselves. If you take a look at the original product I scored this supplement higher. Maybe it is the geek nostalgia but who can tell. 🙂

Hope everyone out there is having a great time and playing hard.

Now gimme the dice, I need to see which version of Cap had the best shield….


World Building 308 – Whats your story?

Ok so I am finally going to close out the Supers world building series.

Now then with everything else that has been put into this series about world building you most likely are wondering why in the monkey I would save the actual story until last.

Well the reason is because of the evolution of comic books themselves. Just to use Marvel comics as an example… If you look back you will see a number of comic book titles that were created early on. And then for marketing and profitability they put some of their more popular characters together to create the Avengers. And THEN they started thinking about continuity. I know that this is a massive oversimplification and that there are some rather beautiful examples of characters and storylines surviving even from the earliest days of comic book publication. However if you look at comics in general it takes a while to get characters and titles to cross over. And the actions taken in one story rarely directly effect what is going on in another characters book. Or even the books that the character is involved with as a team member (**cough cough** Wolverine **cough cough**) unless the character dies.

When those crossovers finally happen you usually end up having to rewrite so many of the rules on how the world functions, or how powerful one character is in relation to another that you end up changing the nature of characters. When that sort of thing happens in comic books it is not always bad, and can lead to some interesting follow up stories. However when you are playing in an RPG it can really piss players off if suddenly the physics of the world changes. Or suddenly one of the minor villains accidentally becomes unstoppable because now all his stories about magic being real are no longer a joke and no one in the game has magic powers because they were not part of the world and so you cant counter him (sorry personal grudge there). Or when your power levels are not clearly defined and a single agent can take on a super hero (crap another grudge there). Are you getting the picture there?

If you put your story ahead of your world, and your characters, then from my personal experience 7 out of 10 times you will piss off at least half of your players. And yes I have had enough experience in bad supers games to make that assessment.

The second big part of it is that when you are building a world you are going to start finding all sorts of things you want to limit or put center stage. You will discover you want to encourage certain types of characters or NPCs to be a part of the world. And once you have it all laid out that makes it fairly easy to wrap a story into your world.

So all of that is why I save the story for last.

Now then there is absolutely NOTHING stopping you from going the other way around about it. You can totally start with your story and build a world to fit it. There is absolutely NOTHING wrong with doing things in a different order. This is just the order that makes the most sense to me and has worked best in my experience.

The other benefit of doing things in this manner is that if you are someone like me who works with a bunch of different game engines you can pick the one that really suits the world you have built up and take advantage of everything you want to do. That way your world, your game engine and your story all compliment each other. If you have only one engine you like to work with then this sort of order might not make as much sense because your world and story will need to fit into the engine you are using. And if you are using a licensed product then you will have a predefined world to fit everything in to.

So lets take a look at the world I have been building here…

  • 301 – Origin of Power – A cosmic/celestial event causes mutations. Also technology.
  • 302 – Which Earth – Our earth
  • 303 – Timeline – Slightly in the future. So that things like cybernetics and power armor could be possible.
  • 304 – Percent of power – 1 / 25000 have mutation. Specific tech that could be called super powers is more common.
  • 305 – Perception of power – Mutants are the new target of fear and racism, Tech characters are seen as heroes.
  • 306 – Power level – World – Mutants vary but low power is more common, and that does mean power, all mutants have something extra. Tech is fairly standard and can make one man equal to about a Main Battle Tank. Game – Mutants will be on the higher end but not the top. Tech characters will have unique toys that go well past the current standards.
  • 307 – Known Earth – There is going to be an alien research vessel that knows about Earth. They noted the unusual solar flare activity and they have been monitoring the effect on humans since. Both physically and sociologically. They trade out teams on a regular basis and have rules about interacting with humans. I have no intention of introducing the aliens any time soon. I think if the players get creative they might be able to find them and go chat. But unless the game needs a kick in the butt, I have no intention of dropping this in the players path.

So this world gives me a few types of stories I can tell…

  1. Humans who fear mutants and use tech to keep them at bay.
    1. Using tech to take away their powers
    2. Using tech to be more powerful
    3. Using tech to imprison or drive off the mutants
  2. Mutants who want more than what they have
    1. Rule the world
    2. Be free of oppression
    3. Live in peace with everyone
    4. Escape earth and find a world of their own
  3. Mixed groups who want to unite mutants and humans for whatever reason
  4. Normal people living day to day

Personally I want to tell story about characters who want to see how far they can push both technology and mutant powers. And that being heroes is a great way to exercise that growth. This means they are going to be put in the path of human supremacists, mutant supremacists and be looked to in regards to how to develop both tech and powers. They may decide that one side is wrong, or all sides are just too messed up and that they should find another world to inhabit or something else along those lines but that is going to be up to the players to decide.

The game engine I have decided to use is Palladium Books Heroes Unlimited. The reason for this is because it has clearly defined classes for mutants and tech based heroes. And while it wont stop a mutant from taking up tech and using it, there is no way they will ever be as good with it as a pure tech character. Also it is not possible for a tech hero to mutate without a complete change in character class and loosing most of their ability with tech. This division makes the kinds of stories that I can tell in this world a lot more powerful because there will be rules that enforce what sort of stories I want to tell already built into the system. Also there is a random power table that players can use to get their mutations. And personally in a world like this I find that to be a great option. Sure you dont have to use it, but it can make for some very interesting combinations of powers that you would not usually see.

I do have some home brew rules I want to add on the mutant side so that I can have a few over the top powerhouses in the world that will still fit the environment. Such as in the original rules they have a strict rule that if you roll a power more than once you have to reroll. However the publishers have made some NPC characters that have a single power more than once and I want to incorporate that. Specifically into some characters like Dust. If I stack the teleportation power multiple times on the character it will have the same effect that Dan originally wrote up for the way his powers worked.

Any way, that rolls up the world, the setting and the stories I want to tell with it.

Not sure what the next World Building series might be but I will do another in the future.

Keep gaming and keep having fun, all while thinking your own thoughts on how you want to game and what you want to game with.

Now gimme the dice, I need to see how many NPCs I can fit into an ordinary shoe box.


So what CAN be an RPG?

Hey all… been a while since I did a quick question/rant/whatever thing and so I thought I would just toss this out there… especially since a while back I tossed out a topic called ‘What IS and RPG?

Back in that older post I talked about Table Top, Live Action and PC/Console RPGs. But also that the origins of RPGs are really the “Lets pretend with rules.” I have also been thinking about some of the odd combinations of games that have come up over the years and… well ok so my brain runs in odd circles some times. Just let me roll this out and I hope you will see what I mean.

In my opinion, in the end, EVERY game that has characters, or that you can add a character to, can be an RPG. Let me start out with this example. Magic the Gathering, when it was first introduced instructed you that you were a great wizard, and your deck was your spell book and your resources, and so on. So you were playing out a wizard duel. They also very quickly  came out with a few oversized cards that were supposed to represent you as your wizard self. In some ways that sounds like having a character sheet and a random system to determine success or failure. Not only is your deck your randomize but it is also your inventory list. Pretty much how you do things in an RPG. Some of my friends and I build decks to tell a story. We put things in there that have a main character and supporting cast and all the things they need to complete their story, and everyone else’s decks are the bad guys. Again that is like lets pretend with rules…

There are a number of games that have incorporated miniature combat into an RPG so you can do strategic combat and still role play your heroes. Things like Heavy Gear where it was built that way from the ground up, or BattleTech which added Mechwarrior so that you could take your pilots out and continue the story. So why not go all out and grab something like Hero Clix and make an RPG session with it since almost every figure is a character by name?

Or how about taking all the angst and drama in Zombicide and just going ahead and add an acting/in character element to it and turning it into an RPG board game?

Considering that it is an Augmented Reality game Pokemon Go is sort of the largest Live Action MMO RPG that I have encountered. I just thank my stars that most folks dont dress up in person for that one unless they are at a convention.

If you watch things like the Poker championships on cable sports channels as yourself how many of those players are dressed up and taking on a persona and are not their usual self. Are they role playing? Does that make their poker games a role playing game?

I think that pro wrestling might be the very first live action RPG. I mean sure things are scripted but they have to have some kind of flexibility just in case an accident happens. If someone gets hurt for real you need to adapt your script to compensate for that and the narrative planning has to spin. So reality becomes your randomizing factor. But you are still playing lets pretend with rules.

And then what about things like Fantasy Sports Leagues? You are creating fictional teams with real players. Again reality becomes your randomizer. I have heard water-cooler talk about how a players comments really fit his play, or how they could imagine the player saying that to the team members the League player had selected and that is why all of his team members did so well. Its still lets pretend with rules.

In the end depending on how thinly you want to pull at the strings I am pretty sure you could call just about anything an RPG in the end… dealing with your boss? Talking to the IRS? How many other things could you rack up where you are a character in a narrative with supplies and a random factor that can change the story at any moment? I wont go that far but I may have made you at least think about it for a second. 🙂

So in the end for me… I say that anything with characters in it… fictionalized entities in any way… can become an RPG with just a little effort and or imagination.

Just my opinion… whats yours?

Now gimme the dice I need to see how many NPCs I am interacting with on a daily basis.


World Building 307 – How well is your world known

We are closing up on the end of this series about world building for supers. This installment is about how well the outside universe knows about your world. I left this one for this close to the end for a few reasons. Things like the origin of power and your timeline may have already introduced aliens, magical entities or spirits. And if they have not then you will still want to know, at least in a rough outline, what is out there so you can play with it later if you want to go that way.

If you take a look at the two biggest publishers for comics right now, in their universes the Earth is sort of central to everything. It was designed that way on purpose. That way every angel, demon, and alien powerhouse in the universe has a reason to visit. They all know the planet is there and many of them want to conquer it, and a few want to protect it. Or in one case over in Marvel the alien race see Earth as an asylum world filled with dangerous mad men/women who have too much power and should be quarantined.

On another side of the coin you can see in the Image series Invincible that while there were a couple of alien races that knew of the Earth, most the ones that knew of the planet didn’t care at all. Until the main characters got involved. The series tends to avoid magic and the supernatural so you cant really say whats going on on that side of the spectrum, but given the nature of the author, I figure he had a plan for it all just in case he decided to experiment with it in the story.

In another title from Image, Spawn, you see the supernatural not only fully aware of the world but it wants control. I did not follow Spawn for long but I do not recall aliens other than an occasional guest character.

So I think that you can see, depending on who knows about your world, and how popular it is for engagement, you can have a whole lot of influences sitting around waiting, or actively participating in the fate and the actions of the world you have built. As I mentioned earlier, from your work on your origin of powers and your timeline you should have an idea already if any race or group outside of the Earth knows about the planet at all. This step allows you to flesh that out in as much detail as you would like ahead of setting your game in motion.

In my own campaigns I like to mix it up a bit. Sometimes everyone knows about Earth. Sometimes it is a very small group of outsiders but none of them are directly interacting with the Earth. And of course everything in-between. The easiest for me is to start with limited interaction off world if any. And build into it. It allows me to expand the universe and the story for the game at the same time. As an example, I ran a game for a few sessions based very loosely on the Psi World RPG from FGU. The idea was that a small percentage of humans had developed psi powers and the world was reacting. Well the source of the powers turned out to be alien interaction (I can hear my wife crying out ‘I told you it was the Aaaaaaaaaaaaliens!!!’) and one of their ships had been left behind. About half of the players were human investigators with nothing really special other than high skill levels to their name. By the third session those players were feeling really under-powered. And so the group discovered the original alien research vessel that had crashed to Earth and caused the Psi outburst in the first place. Now the whole group had access to alien technology but it was the investigators with their high skills who could really take advantage of it. This introduced for the players that there was more to the game universe than they thought. The thing is in my back story the aliens (It was Aaaaaaaaaaaaaliens!!!’ sorry just cant get that our of my head now) picked Earth because as far as they were concerned Earth had a barely intelligent and just kinda sentient lead species and the planet itself was far enough from the galactic core to be a middle of no where place that no one civilized would care about at all. And by galactic standards in this setting, they were right. So while there were aliens out there, none of them gave a rats patootie about Earth one way or the other.

So take a look around at your idea so far for your game world. How much do you want to have going on in regards to outside influence? Or even simple acknowledgement of existence? And as always, remember that writing out what you want does not mean you have to do a 120929803790 page dissertation, you can have something as simple as – Aliens and demons know about Earth. Demons like our bars and hang out alot. – in your world notes and that can be used to take you places later. Thats right… just breathe… you do not have to populate the universe and multiple adjacent dimensions before you get going… you can build it as you go, but knowing the starting point ahead of time can make the interaction with players so much easier.

To go back to the world I am building lets see it by the sessions…

  • 301 – Origin of Power – A cosmic/celestial event causes mutations. Also technology.
  • 302 – Which Earth – Our earth
  • 303 – Timeline – Slightly in the future. So that things like cybernetics and power armor could be possible.
  • 304 – Percent of power – 1 / 25000 have mutation. Specific tech that could be called super powers is more common.
  • 305 – Perception of power – Mutants are the new target of fear and racism, Tech characters are seen as heroes.
  • 306 – Power level – World – Mutants vary but low power is more common, and that does mean power, all mutants have something extra. Tech is fairly standard and can make one man equal to about a Main Battle Tank. Game – Mutants will be on the higher end but not the top. Tech characters will have unique toys that go well past the current standards.
  • 307 – Known Earth – There is going to be an alien research vessel that knows about Earth. They noted the unusual solar flare activity and they have been monitoring the effect on humans since. Both physically and sociologically. They trade out teams on a regular basis and have rules about interacting with humans. I have no intention of introducing the aliens any time soon. I think if the players get creative they might be able to find them and go chat. But unless the game needs a kick in the butt, I have no intention of dropping this in the players path.

Ok so the next step is putting it all together and setting your setting in motion.

Play hard and play often folks.

Now gimme the dice, I need to see how many pages I can roll for on a 1d everything roll.

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Game Review #42 – GURPS Humanx (S)

Did you know there is not a decent RPG that has been created specifically for Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy? SIGH… Ok so for review #42 we will stick with SCIFI and hit something a little unexpected.

You may remember a while back I did a review for GURPS. I was not a happy camper in regards to the system, but did mention more than once that when GURPS does a game supplement they go all out. They treat it with respect and do a great job of it. This is one of those examples.

The Humanx setting is from the works of Alan Dean Foster. I got into the setting back in the late 70’s with the book Orphan Star, with Flinx and his minidrag Pip. And I could never get enough. Foster did frustrate the crud out of me more than once when he would write a new book (and I have to say his writing has never stopped improving over the years) and it would come in-between things he had already established as cannon for the setting and it changed two or three things and so now you have to reread to ensure you have everything right in your own head… but that is between me and Mr Foster.

Published in 1987 GURPS Humanx takes into account not only the series of books that is my favorites (Flinx and Pip) but also takes into account the whole freaking setting. And that is not something that is easy to do given the number of books that Foster had published in the setting by that time. In the books 96 pages you got the whole history of the Humanx Commonwealth and even a look at some of the major players. I was really surprised at how much information they were able to cram into such a small space. The weakest part of the whole thing was the art in my mind, considering that they go permission to use the Michael Whelan cover from one of the books.

To be honest I could rant on for a long time about how much I loved this book. And how it broke my heart that it was in GURPS and not a game system I enjoyed. But on the up side there is so much information here that if a GM cannot take this book and put it into their own preferred game system… well I would be looking for a new GM.

Lets take a look at the numbers….

Overall Fluff 4/5 – The only reason I put this at a 4 and not a 5 is the interior art. The details and snippets from the books are just freaking awesome.

Overall Crunch 4/5 – There are a couple of new rules added for the Humanx setting in this book and while I am not a fan of GURPS they fill in for things that would otherwise feel like big holes in the setting. Like I said I may not like GURPS overall, but when they do a source book or licensed item they do not short change you.

Overall Mod 1/5 – This is in the tank because in my case, you have to mod it, into a whole other system. But the level of detail that is present makes it pretty easy overall. I have in the past put it into Star Frontiers (the Thranx and the Vrusk trade up pretty easy) and into Mekton (yeah I was in a ship to ship combat stage at the time)

Overall Fun 5/5 – Ok so I am totally biased and I admit it. I love the setting and I love the way they treated the material. Even though it takes time to mod it to something I can use in a game engine I enjoy, I still think the book itself is a lot of fun for fans.

Total Score 14/20 – I tried to be as even handed as I could given that I dont like the game engine but love the books this is based on. Not an easy task. For a fan of the setting who games I think the book is essential. For a fan of the books it might be a nice to have just so you can see how other people treat the property. For fans of scifi gaming it could be a very nice alternate setting. For fans of GURPS… … … … … sorry, got nothin’ but snark.

All right so fairly short review this week. Oh and yes this is the official post for the week. Seattle’s Snowmageddon 2019 has brought you everything else published this week. Remember this is all my opinion. Get out there and game for yourself. Make up your own bloody mind and have fun doing it.

Now gimme the dice, I need to see if I can make friends with this minidrag.


Tales from the Game Table – Draw your swords!

So back in the day when Dark Sun was just being published and Ravenloft had recently become more than just a module regarding a castle I was with a game group that most folks should know from at least one point in their game lives. We had the Chemical Gamer who could explain everything on at least a beer. We had the Faithful Sidekick who joined the group to follow another. We had the Eating Machine… dont touch his snacks. And we had others… But most of all… we had Rouse.

Now then Mr Rouse was not a Chemical Gamer, nor was he an Eating Machine… He was Rouse. There may be many other stories here about him. But while you laugh please remember that everyone in the group loved playing with this guy. He was always enthusiastic and happy to play, he would try hard, and quite frankly sometimes we took advantage of his innocence and desire to be part of the team as the adventure was going on. He could also be the most bull headed member of the party… I think if I told you the reincarnation story you might get the point on that trait….

But this is about a maneuver that Rouse pulled three times. Twice in one night and then again in a session a couple weeks later… it stuck after that one.

Anyway Rouse was playing a Fighter. And before you can wonder about the equipment, yeah the game was a bit Monty Haul but that was part of the fun for us at the time. The game was more about having fun than telling in depth stories and deep role playing. So anyway Rouse had picked up two swords. One was “Of Sharpness” and the other was “Vorpal”. For long time players you may be seeing where this is going already…

Anyway Rouse was very keen on his fighter looking very cool and so he had these blades strapped to his back in the classic X format.

After a couple of fights we got curious about how he was using them… and so at the start of the next fight the question was raised “How are you drawing those swords Rouse?”

In reply he crossed his arms in front of himself and mimed pulling both blades forward at the same time in a manner that would surely not end well with blades that powerful on his back.

He was made to roll an attack on himself and was shocked when he rolled a critical hit.

You guessed it.. instant decapitation.

Ok so the first time was played for laughs and we did not enforce anything in the game. However an hour or so later we get into another fight and “Rouse how are you drawing the blades?”

He mimed the same thing again and looked shocked as he realized just what he had done. Without being asked he rolled an attack against himself… double crit. The decapitation was enforced that time. Everyone including Rouse got a bit of a laugh out of it.

We let it go for a while… no one bothered him since he go the character resurrected and all was good. Until about three months later…

“Rouse how are you drawing those swords?”

Third time…yeah… here we go again…

The thing that pissed Rouse off the most at that point though was that he only seemed to roll critical hits when he was attacking himself.

He decided to play a wizard for a while after that. Only used a staff too. We did drop a Staff of Sharpness into the game… he destroyed it.

Anyway… hope that got you all a bit of a laugh.

Stay safe out there in the late season snows.

Now gimme the dice, I gotta see how many critical hits I can get in an hour…


World Building 306 – Power level is how high?

So I know to some this question is going to be coming rather late… to a few it may seem a bit early. But there is a reason I leave the question of power level to this point.

In 30X and 301 I mentioned power levels, what a game engine can support and what sort of flavors it can create in a game. In 304-305 I mentioned how the level of power can influence the perceptions of the world in general toward the individuals that have power. But setting the power level itself… I wanted to wait  to discuss that until this point so that it is something that is brewing in your mind and may already seem obvious.

However there is a BIG difference between the level of power in the world overall, and the level of power that is wielded by the PC’s and your main villains. Or at least there can be.

If you look at what Marvel Comics had been doing with the X-men before the series got to the House of M and Decimation story lines you see that the majority of the Mutants in the Marvel Comics universe are very low powered or may just seem like they look like non-standard humans. Where as the X-men themselves are mid to high level powered mutants. And most of their enemies are right there with them. And the very lowest power tiered mutants kinda feel like they got screwed over by the genetic lottery that gives out powers. However it is the powerhouses that get the press. And so everyone who is a mutant gets treated as if they could be that big of a threat.

After those events you ended up with the really big powerhouses being left and so the threat of the high power to everyday normal people was even more visible.

When I put out hints and ideas about power in the previous sections those posts should have been getting the idea in your head about the overall power level in the world at large. This section though is to think about your game specifically in regards to how much power the players have and how big their bad guys are in comparison. Because the power level that the world is perceived to have by the average every day person, is how they are going to be judged.

I mean lets take a look at another couple of examples. Take the Tick. On average in this world super-humans have such low power levels that they are taken to be a joke by most of the world. Occasionally they do stop a really big bad guy but it is kinda rare. Someone with the actual power level of the Tick is rare, and so very few individuals know how to deal with something on his scale.

TMNT is another one to look at comparatively. The turtles themselves and the villains they most often face are fairly low powered. But they exist in a world where there are Superman level heroes and villains. At least in the original comic books. So until they become famous the majority of their activities fall under the radar of the press. Or they get mixed in with reports of gang wars and the like.

I bring all these versions together to try and make the example that even though a world may have a certain power level overall, your game, your players, and your villains, do NOT have to be at the world power level. You can be way above or below the standard. You can pretty much do anything you like. You just need to remember to take the world level into account.

I have found in the past that playing with characters above the average for the world ends up quickly creating an Avengers / Justice League kind of environment. Where the characters start to see themselves above the rest of the world and either need to save it or guide it, or if they go outside the law it can get a bit like the 1980s X-men where they try to save the world in spite of itself.

I have also found that in playing with characters below the average for the world you end up with a TMNT or Sleeper kind of game. Where, while the action is important, out thinking the enemy and role-play is more important than power. Also in this kind of environment the Good v Evil slider seems to slip a lot easier.

Playing at power level for the environment seems mostly like Legion of Superheroes. That is because there is a high level of technology everywhere that can do many of the things that supers can do. Not always at the same level, but it comes close a lot of the time. However the heroes come up with innovative ways to apply their powers that take them outside the more rigid thinking of the people relying on technology.

So there are a ton of ways to do whatever you might like to do. And every one of them comes with a unique feel to for the players. Especially considering that if you are building a world from scratch then you can populate it how you see fit. Power or de-power it how you like.

To go back to the world I am building lets see it by the sessions…

  • 301 – Origin of Power – A cosmic/celestial event causes mutations. Also technology.
  • 302 – Which Earth – Our earth
  • 303 – Timeline – Slightly in the future. So that things like cybernetics and power armor could be possible.
  • 304 – Percent of power – 1 / 25000 have mutation. Specific tech that could be called super powers is more common.
  • 305 – Perception of power – Mutants are the new target of fear and racism, Tech characters are seen as heroes.
  • 306 – Power level – World – Mutants vary but low power is more common, and that does mean power, all mutants have something extra. Tech is fairly standard and can make one man equal to about a Main Battle Tank. Game – Mutants will be on the higher end but not the top. Tech characters will have unique toys that go well past the current standards.

So you see how my world is shaping up. How is your own doing?

And as always remember, this whole thing is my suggestion, if you dont like doing it this way then dont 🙂

Peace to all the gamers our there and I hope that no mater where in the world you are you are having fun and staying safe.

Now gimme the dice, I need to roll up a random power level to see how extreme things can get.