Sunday, May 26, 2024

The Call Of Palladium...

A Cyber-Knight drawing her Psi-Sword... makes you wanna play doesn't it?

And so it calls, this crazy system of games from ages past and present.

The mother of all tool boxes.

The sum of all genres.

Rules upon rules, systems upon subsystems, flaws upon flaws, coolness that knows no bounds. A deep-dive is akin to an RPG acid-trip, you awake hours later on the floor, perfectly-bound soft-cover books and character sheets scattered about, your head ringing inside, police sirens in the distance... Is this the greatest system ever or the worst? Where have you been all this time? How many hours? How many days? To play this game straight or to hack? Hacking is a must. Contradictions and the fog of war demand it. But to pull one thread... does it unravel? No matter, down the rabbit hole you go. One thread at a time. Akin to reading the God Damn Necronomicon -- a sanity check will follow...

  • Only one attack per round. Special maneuvers that use two attacks are made at -4. Full round actions are made at -8. OR... roll 2d20/3d20 and keep the worst. This also means higher level spells will take 2 or 3 rounds to cast. We could introduce a casting roll...
  • S.D.C./Hit points/A.R.. No M.D.C.!
  • O.C.C related skills are rolled randomly. A multitude of class-tailored charts are required, or one standard, weighted with precursors and bonuses (like below.) How much time do you have? And so, no spamming physical skills. Secondary skills are ignored. For example, the Cyber-Knight's O.C.C Related Skills list would read:

2 rolls on the Physical skills chart
3 rolls on the W.P. charts (3 rolls total between ancient and modern)
7 rolls on the chart below... (followed by rolls on the specifically rolled or chosen skill chart)

01-05  Communications
06-10  Cowboy (+10%)
11-15  Domestic
16-20  Electrical
21-25  Espionage (+5%)
26-30  Horsemanship (+10%)
31-35  Mechanical
36-40  Medical
41-45  Military (+5%)
46-50  Physical (+5%)
51-55  Pilot (+5%)
56-60  Pilot Related
61-65  Rogue
66-70  Science
71-75  Technical (+5%)
76-80  W.P. Ancient
81-85  W.P. Modern
86-90  Wilderness (+5%)
91-00  Choose

  • Weapon Proficiencies give a one-time bonus of +2 to strike/parry. If rolling randomly, you get a +2 every time you roll that weapon. This makes leveling up much simpler.
  • Rolling a percentile skill you already have gives you a bonus of 10%.
  • Paired Weapons roll 2d20 to attack. You can counter-strike, parry one, or both if also fighting with paired weapons.
  • All spells and psychic powers rolled randomly. More tables that don't exist, but could without too much work.
  • And speaking of tables... random tables for every single spell and magic item in the RIFTS Book of Magic and random tables for every single item listed in the Game Masters Guide. Every place you explore should produce random "somethings" to salvage and/or sell. A man can dream! Not impossible though...
  • Each skill based on the sum of two stats, e.g., Pick Locks starting percentage is the sum of I.Q. and Prowess. Perhaps +10. Lots of work, maybe too subjective. Not crucial. Not necessary. Probably simpler to start every skill at 30 or 35%. Most of them already do.
  • New skills should be less frequent, maybe 1 every 3 levels. Randomly rolled on your class chart like above. These are skills you are learning "off-screen" -- no need to explain. Perhaps have level-up instructions like 1 W.P. and 1 random skill. This way martial types will always improve combat in some way other than their hand-to-hand style. Or, add +1 to a W.P. of choice or roll randomly which results in +2 to whichever weapon skill is rolled.
  • When you level up add 5% to all skills... or roll 1d6 -- more time-consuming, but more interesting. Even if you've never used the skill, it's assumed you're using them "off-screen."
  • Hand-To-Hand styles are re-written to be more concise as to what you can and can not do and you CAN NOT trade up from Basic for a mere skill or two. 
  • Or... combine all combat bonuses and maneuvers onto one chart and depending on your O.C.C., you get so many rolls on this chart per level. So, in effect, everyone has their very own combat style. Something akin to this... 

01-05  +1 to strike/parry
06-10  +1 to dodge
11-15  +1 to roll with punch...
16-20  +1 to pull punch
21-25  +1 to disarm/entangle
26-30  +2 damage -- melee
31-33  +2 damage -- ranged
34-36  +1 crit range (e.g., 19-20)
37-38  K.O./stun on 20
39-40  Deathblow on 20
41-44  W.P. ancient (+1 to current or +2 to random new one)
45-48  W.P. modern (+1 to current or +2 to random new one)
49-51  +1 to initiative
52-54  +1 to perception
55-56  +1 save vs curses
57-58  +1 save vs Disease
59-60  +1 save vs poison
61-62  +1 save vs Drugs/toxins
63-64  +1 save vs Circles
65-66  +1 save vs horror
67-68  +1 save vs insanity
69-70  +1 save vs K.O./stun
71-72  +1 save vs spells/rituals
73-74  +1 save vs psionics
75-76  +1 save vs wards/fumes
77-78  +10% vs coma/death
79-81  +1 M.E.
82-84  +1 P.S.
85-87  +1 P.P.
88-90  +1 P.E.
91-93  +1 SPD
94-00  Choose

  • Bionic characters (Heroes Unlimited) roll bionics randomly and total value comes from that, which might determine how badly they want you back... are you hunted?
  • No difference between punches and kicks, all are strikes that do normal strike damage or power-strike damage (2 attacks, see above.) Can't have worlds where knights in plate-mail are walking around trying to karate-kick dragons.
  • Cyber-Knights' Psi-Swords start at 3d6 and crit on 19-20. Perhaps damage or bonus damage depends on the value of their M.E.?...or... they do 2d6 ignoring armor. They are PSI-Swords after all.
  • XP based on monster hit points and finding stuff. This incentivizes action and exploration, not "story-telling." Long live the OSR!
  • Critical Hits damage A.R. by one point. Death Blows by two.
  • Spell-casting penalty for wearing armor for each point of A.R. over 10. This is added to the target's save/dodge or subtracted from the caster's strike roll, whichever is appropriate.
  • "Mega-Damage" weapons simply get a multiplier: x5 or x10.
  • When all else fails, play the game exactly as it is... except... M.D.C. must go, and XP is as described above, and no spamming physical skills, and... you see, rabbit holes inside of rabbit holes.
  • And so on and on...
  • But seriously, the game is fine... except for M.D.C..

RIFTS Ultimate Edition is so crammed with information that every time you read it, it's like you never have. The only other book that does this is the original AD&D Dungeon Master's Guide. RIFTS is wildly overwritten and often contradictory. And that is why you get pulled down the rabbit hole. You can not escape the gravity of this. And, do you even want to? Despite the madness, you love it.

Is this the book I would take to an island?

The ultimate game exists here... somewhere.

Honoring Memorial Day: To those patriots who fought (and fight) for the stars & stripes, I salute you.

Wednesday, April 17, 2024

Marvel Multiverse Role-Playing Game Part Two: Cap vs Spidey -- Fight!

Fresh off my review of the Marvel Multiverse Role-Playing Game I'm testing the combat rules with a fight between Captain America and Spider-Man, both Rank:4 heroes. I will document it here, blow by blow...

But first, here's a nice little tribute from the Marvel Multiverse Role-Playing Game title page...

And something else the OSR might appreciate, a healthy warning against rail-roading (because if any genre is easy to rail-road, it's super-heroes.)

"If you want to just tell the players a story, you can write it down and read it to them."

"It's not your job to put the plot on rails and run the characters through it."

POST NOTE: The core rules state that the TN for escaping webs is 20. Fans of the game have been complaining that this number is too high and it's disrupting their game. As you will see below, it is in fact, too high. The MARVEL website has a document called Tony's Workshop where they share new ideas, rule fixes/experiments, and other changes. The new TN for escaping webs is 18. This certainly would have helped the star-spangled avenger in the fight that follows!

Now, to the action!

For the sake of this fight the two heroes will start 10 spaces apart. Cap's run speed is 5, Spidey's swingline speed is 18. They both have +3E initiative, the E means they have an edge on initiative rolls (meaning you can re-roll the lowest die.) Initiative is 3D6 with a potential surprise happening on a fantastic success. The rolls...

  • Cap: 16
  • Spidey: 16
A tie. The re-rolls...
  • Cap: 10F (F stands for fantastic success meaning MARVEL came up on the MARVEL die)
  • Spidey: 11

Cap gains a bonus surprise action. Once the surprise round ends, Spidey will go first. Both Cap and Spidey have 1 standard action, 1 move, and 2 reactions (due to both of them having the combat reflexes trait.) Cap can't reach Spidey in 1 move, but no doubt Spidey will come to him, so Cap decides to throw his shield using Hurled Shield Bash. Cap can throw his shield 10 spaces x his rank (4), that's 40 spaces(!)... no prob. This ranged attack costs Cap 5 of his 120 Focus.
  • Now here in lies the first controversy. The rules say melee covers punching and throwing and that agility covers blasting at range. Looking at the villain Bullseye's stats, he has a 1 melee and 4 agility and his agility damage multiplier is x4, double his melee damage multiplier of x2. Bullseye throws things -- it's what he does, he is clearly meant to use agility for attacks and damage even though melee covers throwing. Cap's damage multiplier is the same for melee and agility, but he has a 2 point advantage if attacking with melee and because the rules say punching and throwing, I'm going to let him use melee. (Realistically, you'd have to be strong to throw a shield, your chances of success should perhaps be the average of the two stats.)
Cap rolls a 9 (+6 from melee) for a total of 15, not enough to hit Spidey's amazing agility defense of 19 (both Spidey's melee and agility defense are 19 ((thanks to evasion and spider-sense)) -- he is very hard to hit!) Cap's shield automatically returns to him. Spidey has reaction powers, but I'm ruling he can't use them during this bonus round.

Now the first round begins...

Spidey won't do anything fancy this round, he'll simply swing to Cap and kick him. He rolls a total of 14, not enough to hit Cap's melee defense of 16. Now it's Cap's turn and he'll do a standard Shield-Bash. Roll: 17, missing Spidey.

After the first round...
  • Cap -- Health: 90  Focus: 115 (down from 120)  Karma: 4
  • Spidey -- Health: 90  Focus: 90  Karma: 4

Spidey's gonna try to web Cap's feet to the ground with his webcasting power. This is an agility vs agility check. He rolls a 19, beating Cap's agility defense of 14. Cap is now paralyzed and can't take any melee or agility actions, his agility defense is reduced to 10 and close attacks automatically hit. To escape he needs to make a melee roll of 20! Cap is going to use one of his reactions to try to escape. His melee roll is a 17, not enough, so he spends a point of karma to reroll a 2 (he and Spidey both have 4 karma points.) He rolls a 3 for an 18 -- still a failure. He has another reaction so he'll use that one too. Roll: 16, looking at the dice it's clear that spending karma again won't save him. Cap is stuck!

Spidey is going to use his wisecracker power (which is optionally triggered by a successful attack) as a reaction (reactions can be used as interruptions anytime) -- this is an ego vs ego attack that will do Focus damage. Roll: 10, not enough to meet Cap's ego defense of 12 (I find this number low for Cap, BTW, a hero, who to me, should be unflappable.)

It's Cap's turn and he needs to escape. If he does escape, he can take his actions normally. Cap should have spent a point of karma to give Spidey trouble on his successful webcasting roll, meaning Spidey would have had to re-roll his highest die, maybe turning that success into a failure. (Hind sight!) He's already used both reactions trying to escape so now he'll use his standard action. He fails miserably! Spending karma won't get him to 20, but... he rolled a fantastic failure (the MARVEL die came up! Note: the MARVEL die is equal to a 6, so on that die you can only roll, 2,3,4,5,6,6, this action was still a miss, regardless.) Now the rules say that something beneficial should happen regardless of the failure, but in my last post, I argued for something negative, so here's what I'm going to do: Cap jumps right out of his boots (which remain stuck) and he will have trouble on his next action, a Shield Bash which after the trouble re-roll is only a 10, a clear miss.
  • Cap -- Health: 90  Focus: 115 (120)  Karma: 3
  • Spidey -- Health: 90  Focus: 90  Karma: 4

And so round three begins...

Smart-ass Spidey is going to try to web Cap's boot-less feet back to the ground. Cap is going to use his Shield Wall power that requires concentration so long as Cap doesn't take a move action (a lot of automatic powers require concentration to keep up, you can concentrate on a number of powers equal to your rank, I should have paid attention to shield wall earlier!) to give Spidey trouble on the roll. No dice! Cap is webbed again! Cap might have to spend both reactions again trying to escape. He succeeds on his second try before going for a Shield Bash on the pesky wall-crawler -- missing again, failing by 3, and is not going to spend karma for the re-roll (spending karma on a re-roll is a judgement call, if you missed by a lot, the chances of a re-roll helping you might be slim.)

This has probably been a page or two of comic book action. They would no doubt be bantering back and forth about why they're fighting... some misunderstanding or one is mind-controlled. So far, the environment has not factored in (you can throw cars and stuff) but I assumed an empty street or alley. Neither one has taken damage yet, but Spider-Man is winning. Let's have them fight for a couple more pages...

The star-spangled avenger has managed to escape the webs twice, annoying the web-slinger, so Spidey's gonna go old-fashioned slugfest (after-all, he once beat Firelord -- one of the all-time classic issues!) Cap is using his Shield Wall to give Spidey trouble, but Spidey spends 1 karma to remove the trouble... and scores a hit! Now, Spidey's melee damage multiplier is 5, but Cap has -4 damage reduction! (super-serum + shield) -- at a cost of 15 Focus, so Spidey's multiplier is now only 1. So he rolls 1D6x1, +5 (melee stat) for a total of 6 points of damage. Cap's shield makes him very hard to hurt, but a prolonged use of it will weaken his Focus. Spidey has no damage reduction, but he's super hard to hit, even for Cap. Mental powers would be a threat to both.

Cap's turn. He rolls and misses, then spends karma for and edge getting a hit, then Spidey spends karma for trouble cancelling out the hit.

After this round we are at...
  • Cap -- Health: 84 (90)  Focus: 100 (120)   Karma: 2
  • Spidey -- Health: 90  Focus: 90   Karma: 2

One more round and then Spidey will most likely swing away... But first, he knows he can't really hurt Cap while the avenger has his shield, so he's going to try to take it. First this will require a webgrabbing attempt (5 Focus) and then a melee on melee tug of war. Cap is concentrating on his shield wall (ironically) giving Peter trouble, who in turn spends karma to cancel that out, but he only rolls a 12 so he misses. Then Cap strikes and turns a miss into a hit by spending karma, but Spidey spends karma of his own and the re-roll becomes a miss again. And that is the end of round four. After wards Spidey swings away. At least that's how this fight would end in the comics. Cap could throw his shield at him, but he won't.
  • Cap -- Health: 84 (90)  Focus: 100 (120)   Karma: 1
  • Spidey -- Health: 90  Focus: 85 (90)   Karma: 0

If I continued this fight things would deteriorate quickly due to the lack of karma. Spider-Man clearly has to keep using his webs against Cap, and Cap needs to hope for a lucky blow. You might be wondering why Cap isn't using more of his listed powers -- most of them are either baked into his numbers or designed to help team-mates and/or to mow down goons. I saw no mention in the rules about Spidey's web fluid running out, but if he rolls a fantastic failure while using a web power, that's exactly what I would rule, then it would be serious advantage Cap.

A team of heroes fighting a team of villains could take up and entire evening of play and tracking every characters powers (reactions, concentration, etc.) would be a challenge. There was a lot of page flipping during this exercise to make sure I got it right. Some powers and conditions are remarkably similar, like web-casting/web-grabbing and paralyzed/pinned.

Karma. I don't mind an occasional re-roll, but that whole fight was driven by spending karma. I prefer the dice tell the story. However... there's a catch -- these are both heroes -- they have the heroic tag. Villains don't start with karma, they can earn it, but that's not likely to happen. So, spending karma won't be as annoying in-game. Karma can also be spent to regain some health or focus. Wondering how they'll handle The Punisher...

I love theater-of-the-mind and this game can be played either way, but it would really shine on a grid and seeing as super-hero games are mostly fights... Knockback rules are present and can send a character flying many spaces away, through walls and everything. This will change battlefield tactics -- movement speed will matter. If you used to play Heroclix (like I did) you already have all the minis you'll ever need. Squares or hexes would both work fine. Get some toy cars and stuff and off you go!

Edge and trouble. These are 1 die re-rolls -- for better and for worse. But they alter reality after the fact. "I hit you!" "No you didn't!" I'm thinking, an alternate way to roll them would be closer to advantage/disadvantage, meaning, you simply roll an extra die with your attempt, but that extra die can not be a MARVEL die. Double edge and double trouble would be two extra dice.

Anyway, that's it for the moment, go away now.

Wait, what?

Tuesday, April 2, 2024

Marvel Multiverse Role-Playing Game... What Have We Here?

Strange how things happen...

A couple of weeks ago I dreamed of a comic shop. This one was tucked away, hidden like an adult video store, in the back of a gas station, doorway complete with hanging beads, located in a more run down, but not necessarily seedy part of town. I don't often dream of comic shops, haven't in years, but when I do, they are always somewhat hidden. Two days later, another comic shop dream, another vaguely odd place, though I don't recall exactly where...

Why am I dreaming of comics?

These are hidden treasure dreams. Occasionally, in my youth, I would dream of amazing toy stores -- toy stores you could only dream about. Stores that had everything and then some -- awesome toys that didn't exist.

Then I stumbled across the Marvel Multiverse Role-Playing Game, written by Matt Forbeck, published by Marvel. I had actually heard about it some time ago (months, a year?) and scanned a preview of how it works then promptly dismissed it. Marvel is long overdue for a good role-playing system, because over the years there have been nothing but duds. 

I can't remember what recently brought this game back to my attention (dreams aside) but I bought it on Amazon for about $30, which is approximately 45% off. So why not? Because, apparently, super-heroes are on my brain.

I've eternally searched for the perfect super-hero system. My two favorites, and I've stated this plenty of times, are the Marvel Super Heroes game (FASERIP system) from the 80's and Palladium's Heroes Unlimited, two utterly and completely different games.


Marvel Multiverse Role-Playing Game is 320 pages, has a high quality binding, and is jammed full of quality, Marvel Comics art (of course I would've preferred art from the 70s, 80s, and 90s, but, that ain't gonna happen.) The layout is good, but the pages have this subtle background hex-mesh (kind of like the stuff hero uniforms are made of in the movies) that threatens to annoy your eyes. A plain white background would've been better, then again, this might not bother younger eyes. Overall, it's a very nice book.

There is branding all over this thing. You have six abilities that spell MARVEL...

  • Melee -- hand-to-hand combat, including throwing
  • Agility -- acrobatics and most ranged attacks
  • Resilience -- your health
  • Vigilance -- your focus and initiative
  • Ego -- magic, leadership, psychic powers
  • Logic -- reasoning and telepathic powers

Notice that there is some blurring between melee and agility, and between ego and logic. Are telepathic powers not psychic powers? This will certainly lead to arguments. Each power states what ability to use and some powers don't require a roll.

Also notice, there is no strength stat. In this game strength is a super power, or rather, a set of super powers (they could have added strength at the bottom and had the stats spell MARVELS.) Stats are ranked from -3 to 9. Average citizens have all 0s. Nowhere is this book are there metrics given for how much your character can lift in actual lbs./tons. I've never seen this before in a super-hero game. Super strength here is kept vague. 

Characters are ranked in power level from 1-6; average citizens, Hand Ninjas*, and Hydra Agents* are rank 1, Hela and Magneto are rank 6. Spiderman(Peter Parker) and Captain America are both rank 4. If you're a fan, Miles Morales is rank 3. Daredevil and Elektra are both rank 2. 

*Hydra Agents are actually tougher (more health) than Hand Ninjas (same health as Aunt May!) -- something I find unbelievably bizarre. I'm sure the author is trying to set up scenes of Daredevil or Wolverine plowing through ninja-hordes, but in my mind, one Hand Ninja would slaughter several Hydra Agents... easily. Debates on the accuracy of character stats can be found on various forums -- this is inevitable for such a game. (Since when does Sam Wilson have super-strength?)

You have two hit point scores, Health and Focus, obviously physical and mental, which equal 30 times your Resilience and Vigilance, respectively (though Focus functions as a combo of physical and mental endurance.) A Resilience of 3 gives you 90 Health and a Vigilance of 5 gives you 150 Focus. Using some powers requires you to spend Focus. 0 Health equals unconscious while negative Health equals dead (thankfully they didn't shy away from death in this game, but then again, comic book death...) 0 Focus equals demoralized which means you can't use certain powers and you have the equivalent of disadvantage (here it is called trouble) on all rolls. Negative Focus equals shattered, meaning your will is completely broken, so not dead, but definitely taking a hiatus (perhaps your title got cancelled...)

Characters are built with a sort-of point buy system (yuck). Decide what rank your game will be and build heroes accordingly. Rank mainly decides how many powers/traits/ability-points you have and how much damage you do. Gaining ranks is handled vaguely, basically you rank-up whenever the Narrator (FASERIP's Judge was a better GM title, Narrator sends the wrong message to my ears) feels is reasonable, perhaps every 4-6 sessions (a graphic novel) but this would be far too fast. How do you explain a rank 1 rookie becoming a cosmic power in a matter of months? This isn't D&D. To the game's credit, it states that the official Marvel characters can't go any higher than they are and does sort-of warn against advancing your own too quickly. I would probably come up with some sort of system reminiscent of FASERIPs karma advancement. It would be very slow with plenty of limitations. Comic characters take years to change just a little bit. It is a curious genre that way. Almost all others RPG genres expect a fairly regular pace of improvement. Fighting crime is truly for the love of the game.

Your hero will be made up of the above mentioned stats plus an origin, occupation, tags, traits, and a multitude of powers. And by multitude, I mean multitude. Powers are built like feat trees, meaning certain powers have prerequisites, and those prerequisites have prerequisites. For example, in the super-speed category of powers, you can't take catch bullets until you take speed run 2 and your hero must be at least rank 3. Captain America's ability to punch someone with his shield is a power called shield-bash, so if you want to build a shield-bearer (this is a power set) you might want to start with shield-bash!

Power trees.

(Of note: Specific powers like penance stare exist in the game, but Daredevil's radar sense does not. Instead, his powers are summed up under the moniker of heightened senses. Nowhere on Daredevil's character sheet is radar sense even mentioned. Likewise, Psylocke's famous psi-blade is not mentioned either (not even in parenthesis.) This power uses the generic term of mental punch, a melee attack that damages Focus instead of Health and stuns on a fantastic success. I've never seen her psi-blade not stun someone, of course, I only recall ever seeing her stab targets through their skull, perhaps a psi-blade to the arm merely hurts.)

Origins nicely cover the usual tropes: Various Aliens, High Techs, Mutants, Monsters, etc. These give you certain tags, traits, and even powers (with some limitations) these are powers you must take before choosing any others, and sometimes, as with vampires and werewolves, these are the only powers you get.

Occupations offer more tags and traits, e.g., lawyer, entertainer, journalist, outsider, spy.

Tags are mere fluff descriptors like: mysterious, streetwise, rich, secret I.D., young, etc. These offer no mechanical benefits. 

  • But, they could... What if the hounded, hunted, and enemy tags meant that if you roll a fantastic failure (see below) or a new dice combo like triple 1s (1M1) members of an enemy organization or an arch-nemesis shows up to complicate your current situation? Or if you had the dependent tag, in the middle of the fight you find out a loved one is in danger somewhere else? Tags could have positive effects too if you roll a 6M6, such as allies arriving to help turn the tide (there is a backup tag.) This is what I would absolutely do.

Traits are like the old FASERIP talents which offer a slight edge to this or that roll. They sound just like tags though: iron will, loner, pundit, small, sneaky, etc.

Sample characters and sheets...

This is what Spiderman would look like if you created him yourself (on the right.) There would be a back page with the rest of his powers listed. See what I mean by a multitude of powers? BTW, there is a power-group of spider powers for people who love the spider-verse and wish to create their own spiderman (spider-verse book due out around the end of the year.)

Also, I would add an Action section to this character sheet. Everyone gets 1 standard action, 1 movement action, and 1 reaction. The trait combat reflexes gives you 1 additional reaction. It would be nice to see this at a glance. All powers fit into one of these action categories.

Most likely I'll be designing my own sheet.

Game Mechanics... Make or brake time. The stat block below is really the core of your character:

Of your 6 standard abilities, you can attack and do damage with 4 of them --melee, agility, ego, and logic. As already stated, resilience and vigilance set your health and focus. All 6 are important. All 6 also have a defense score, an armor class if you will, your score +10 + power bonuses. In melee combat, you roll against your targets melee defense. When shooting, you roll vs. their agility. Now, I love opposed rolls, but this is certainly the next best thing. For non combat rolls, you simply add your score (which may have a power bonus) to the 3D6 roll. And there in lies the mechanic... 3D6.


One die needs to be a different color from the other two. This die is called the MARVEL die. Official dice are sold in packs of 12, so 4 sets, for $16 -- not bad. The MARVEL die reads MARVEL in place of the 1.

The basic mechanic is: Roll 3D6 (referred to as D616, more branding, the Marvel earth is earth 616.) Anyway, if you're trying to punch someone, roll 3D6 + your melee score and meet or beat your target's melee defense. That's it, those are the basics. The same applies to agility, ego, and logic.

If you hit, the MARVEL die represents damage. Take that number and multiply it by your damage multiplier (limited by your Rank, e.g., rank 4 = x4 damage multiplier, some powers expand this) then add your melee score on top of that. 

If the MARVEL die comes up, MARVEL, it's called a fantastic success and you do double damage. 6MARVEL6 (6M6) is an ultimate fantastic success for triple damage. Powers and weapons will trigger other effects too, like stunning and knockback.

You can have a fantastic failure as well -- you fail but something strange happens that benefits you, sort of like failing forward. That's OK, but a missed opportunity for classic tropes like spiderman running out of web-fluid (if using a web power.) 

Some powers, traits, situations, give you edge or trouble, meaning you reroll the best or worst die. You can have double edge and double trouble too.

There is also Karma (a nice throwback to FASERIP.) You get a number of karma equal to your rank and can spend it to give yourself an edge or an opponent trouble, and to recover some health. BTW, edge and trouble are mentioned throughout the book without being in italics or bold print, I find this odd as they are terms that should always stand out.

The mechanics are simple and elegant. I actually like them. Lucky rolls can quickly knock people out of combat and also allow you to survive against powerful foes. There is however, one philosophical flaw in this game: Setting target numbers for non-combat challenges...

Target numbers are set based on your hero's rank. So, jumping from one roof-top to another (if set at challenging) will be TN:12 if you're rank 2, but for a rank 4 hero it's TN:14. What if they were jumping at the same time? Shouldn't it be easier for the rank 4 hero? This is an all-things-equal storytelling mechanic... not a fan. I think this assumes all heroes playing are the same rank, something else I'm not a fan of. I would set one TN regardless of who's attempting the feat. Easy fix, not a game-breaker.

Another thing, your damage multiplier is based on your rank. So rank 1 has a x1 multiplier and rank 6 has a x6 multiplier (remember this multiplier is applied to the results of the MARVEL die.) This applies to all 4 attack types, melee, agility, ego, and logic. Jean Grey is rank 6 so her melee damage multiplier is x6. Her melee score is 1, so not a great fighter, but if she did hit you she would do more damage than Daredevil and maybe even Captain America or Wolverine! Her mental powers do more damage than her fists, so she shouldn't bother trying to punch you, but if she did... This is a weird byproduct of this system. Obviously you could just say there was a little telekinesis in that punch (even though she has a separate telekinetic punch power, which is a logic vs. melee roll, just so you know.)

All in all, as it stands right now, I call this is a good game. So I'll say: Well done MARVEL (not a company I've praised in a long time -- the movies are terrible and it looks like they'll continue to be.) Time will tell though, as this RPG is still very new. The more people that play it, the more optimum power-builds will be revealed and then every created hero will look the same. Every one is going to take the equivalent of "super-strength" in their preferred damage mode and they will also take damage reduction in both Health and Focus -- you'd be dumb not to. And you'll have one attack that targets Health and one that targets Focus enabling you to zero in on a foe's weak spot. Also, EVERYONE will take the trait combat reflexes. Everyone will have flight. And these will only be half of your powers. This is why random character creation will always be superior to builds

Two books are out, the core rules and the Cataclysm of Kang Adventure which stats out a bunch more heroes/villains (the adventure part, I could care less about -- published super-hero adventures are always rail-roads of the highest degree.) An X-Men book is due out in August and a Spider-Verse book after that. These books are slated to have tons of hero stats and new powers and new rules. Eventually, I imagine, there will and should be, a Powers book. They should call it Ultimate Power (FASERIP had the Ultimate Powers Book.)

What I would love to see, and will most likely end up doing myself, is a random character generation system, not concerned with or limited by balance and rank. The actual X-Men aren't balanced nor are the Avengers and nor should your game be, well, my game anyway.

Now go clobber something!

Monday, March 25, 2024

Unnamed Traveller Girl

As rolled up with the Mongoose Traveller RPG 2nd Edition 2022 Update, a book I was at first skeptical about...

Initial stats:

  • Strength: 4 (-1)
  • Dexterity: 4 (-1)
  • Endurance: 8
  • Intellect: 5 (-1)
  • Education: 4 (-1)
  • Social: 5 (-1)
  • Psi: 6 (just for the hell of it, she is not psionic)

The universe was not kind to this one. 

What kind of back-water planet slum produced these results?

The cruelty would continue...

Her dreams of joining the Scouts, well... it would not be. 

Entered the draft. Swooped up by an Intelligence Agency. Her stats say she is not cut out for this line of work... probably used as some sort of patsy. Subsequently...

Nearly killed. CR25,000 in medical debt just to restore her body to its prior self. (5 points were lost among her already low physical stats.)

Spends the next few years drifting. Works in the belting industry. 

Somehow she gets caught up in a failed, illegal, side venture. Gullible? Incompetent? Or just plain unlucky? The rolls were so bad I actually switched dice. 



Joins a gang and learns how to fight. Paroled. Ironically, prison is where she found the most success.

Drifts once more as a scavenger. Runs into members of her former prison gang. They betray her. A former contact, now a rival.

Wanders some more. 

Meets a new contact...

And this is where we stand: 
  • Strength: 4 (-1)
  • Dexterity: 4 (-1)
  • Endurance: 9 (+1)
  • Intellect: 5 (-1)
  • Education: 4 (-1)
  • Social: 5 (-1)
  • Psi: 6 

Good Lord.

  • Athletics:0
  • Drive: 0
  • Flyer: 0
  • Gun Combat: 0
  • Investigate: 0
  • Melee -- Unarmed: 1
  • Profession -- Belter: 0
  • Recon: 0
  • Stealth: 0
  • Streetwise: 1
  • Survival: 0

CR: 4,000
Debt: 25,000
Contacts: 1
Rivals: 1
Age: 38

Or perhaps these are just memory implants and she's nothing more than a discarded replicant...


Thursday, February 22, 2024

Castles & Crusades: Saving Throws... Focusing On Death

In the earliest editions of D&D, death, along with poison was your best save.

In Castles & Crusades, the death save is a charisma save. 

Also under the purview of charisma are charm and fear

This has consequences.

For example, in C&C, half-orcs suffer a -2 penalty to their charisma stat, thus, they are less personable (of course) but also, more suspectable to death, charm, and fear than any other race. Does that make sense to you?

Also in C&C, bards have charisma as their prime stat. This makes sense for their profession, charming and all that, but, this also makes bards very resistant to fear and death, right up there with knights and paladins. Does that make sense to you?

So, in C&C, saving throws are based off your main stats. You have prime and secondary stats where you roll a 12 or higher for prime and an 18 or higher for secondary. Those are just the base numbers to which you add your level (unless you're stepping on another class's toes, such as a cleric trying to pick a lock) and your ability bonus. So, assuming average stats at 1st level, you're actually rolling over 11 and 17 respectively. Then you calculate in the challenge level, a spell -- the spell caster's level, a monster -- its hit die, for a trap it's the level of the trap setter, and so on. 

  • For example: A medusa is a 6HD creature. Here are what various PCs would have to roll (on a d20) to avoid petrification. This assumes an average wisdom score.
    • PC level 1, wisdom prime: 17
    • PC level 1, wisdom secondary: 23
    • PC level 5, wisdom prime: 13
    • PC level 5, wisdom secondary: 19
    • PC level 10, wisdom prime: 8
    • PC level 10, wisdom secondary: 14
    • PC level 15, wisdom prime: 3
    • PC level 15, wisdom secondary: 9
    • PC level 20, wisdom prime: -2
    • PC level 20, wisdom secondary: 4

Characters start with 2 primes and 4 secondaries, 1 prime from race, 1 prime from class. Humans are the exception getting 2 primes, thus starting with 3 (other races get other perks, dark-vision and such.)

Here are the C&C classes by prime stat...

  • STR: Fighter, Ranger
  • DEX: Rogue, Assassin
  • CON: Barbarian, Monk
  • INT: Illusionist, Wizard
  • WIS: Cleric, Druid
  • CHA: Bard, Knight, Paladin

Most, but not all, of a class's abilities will function off their prime stat. Class ability rolls are essentially saving throws. So, charisma is crucial for all of the bard's performance and influencing skills, likewise, charisma is crucial for the successful use of a knight's and paladin's battlefield leadership abilities.

Anyhow, bards, knights, and paladins are, by default of this system, the hardest to kill by death attack.   These classes are also the most resistant to fear and charm. Charm makes sense for bards and the other two make sense for knights and paladins, but all three classes  inherently have an advantage in situations specifically calling for death. Now, you can choose charisma as your second or third prime, but you're probably sacrificing some class abilities in doing so. 

Charm makes sense for charisma to some degree, but fear and death do not. Look at those around you, impersonable grouches are usually quite resistant to charm and those who think they're slick often fall prey to other slicksters. Of course, the smart-ass might say, impersonable grouches can be charismatic in their own way, but now we're muddying the waters.

Of the six abilities, the charisma saves make the least sense. This is probably a case of trying to spread the saves evenly among six stats so as to avoid the game having a dump stat. How better to give charisma some weight than by linking it to death? And this is not necessary. You see, charisma is the social save.

Should there even be a death save?

For example: Poison is damage (and pain.) When you're stung by an insect or bitten by a snake, the amount of damage you take depends on the strength of the poison/venom/toxin. If that particular beast (whatever it is) hits you, you've been poisoned. What exactly, are you then saving against? It's like you have a free, vague, parry maneuver to reverse reality, saying -- no, actually, I was not bitten. 

Larger animals with poisonous bites, due to their sheer size, also do damage with their bite/sting/claw. This is where modern versions of D&D might have it correct in the fact that they might state damage as 1d6 (+2d6 poison damage.) If you do not have the hit points to survive this, have you not then, by default, suffered a death attack?

Going back, death should not be linked to any one particular stat. Perhaps the only death save that should exist in any game should come into play if your hit points happen to fall to exactly zero and you are making a save every round to see if you fall negative and die. In such a case, you could argue for a con-based save or a will-based save (wisdom.)

Going back to C&C. I believe fear should be covered by wisdom. Charisma should only handle social interactions, bard stuff, the knight's/paladin's warlord stuff, the assassin's disguise ability, bribing a guard, etc. I would also shift confusion from wisdom to intelligence, with, charm and fear going to wisdom. This leaves charisma to dominate the social realm. 

So the abilities and their saves in C&C, rules as written are...

  • STR: Paralysis, Constriction
  • DEX: Breath Weapon, Traps 
  • CON: Energy Drain, Disease, Poison, 
  • INT: Arcane Magic, Illusions
  • WIS: Divine Magic, Confusion, Gaze, Petrification, Polymorph
  • CHA: Death Attack, Fear, Charm
My changes...
  • STR: Paralysis, Constriction
  • DEX: Breath Weapon, Traps 
  • CON: Energy Drain, Disease, Poison, Polymorph*
  • INT: Arcane Magic, Illusions, Confusion
  • WIS: Divine Magic, Gaze, Fear, Charm, Petrification
  • CHA: Loyalty, Morale, all things Social
*Polymorph was originally attached to wisdom, but I moved it to constitution because of its archaic ties to system shock. Though petrify/polymorph are also classically linked, petrification is usually caused by gaze attacks which seem to be, at their core, an assault upon your will, where as polymorph is battling the structure and health of your physical body.

Now those pesky half-orcs aren't so shit-on by fate. Not that their existence is pleasant.

As for death attacks (not counting death specifically linked to things like poison) the best way to handle this is to allow the PC to use their BEST saving throw. This way, death favors no single class and with saving throws scaling as the threat-level rises, success is no guarantee.

 And so it's full circle with death becoming your best save.

And if your best save can't save you, then to Hell with you!

Thursday, February 15, 2024

Tweaking The Castles & Crusades Assassin

This is regarding the Assassin as presented in the Castles & Crusades Player's Handbook 8th Printing as seen on the right below...

In this printing, the Assassin (which alphabetically should, and has up until now, been first) is presented at the end of the class section, as an optional class(?) that "turns the idea of a hero on its head." 

Do not dis the Assassin!

Anyhow, this Assassin is a pretty good version of the concept. Most of their classes are. And I like the fact that C&C classes go up to 24th level. 

The Assassin...

  • Prime Attribute: Dexterity
  • Hit Die: d6
  • Alignment: Any non-good
  • Weapons: Any
  • Armor: Leather, Leather Coat, Padded

Only those given at 1st level, more come at 13th, but I'm not concerned about those at the moment.
Anyhow, these abilities are good, exactly what you'd think they'd be, but a couple could be tweaked and made mechanically more interesting, at least to me.

  • Armor Allowed: As above, but they can wear any armor above AC:12 with a -1 penalty to their abilities per point above AC:12. I like this, nothing to tweak here. As the Assassin levels up, you can begin to weigh the risk/reward of better armor. Also, this could easily be ported over to Wizards -- any armor above 10 could give a -1 penalty to the casting strength level of their spell, hence an easier saving throw for the target. This idea could actually be applied to any class with armor restrictions. Basically, a -1 to all rolls for every point of AC you normally can't have.
  • Case Target (Wisdom): Basically, if they spend 1d3x10 minutes observing a target, the CK (Castle Keeper -- "DM") gives them some sort of useful information. Too vague for me, and clearly designed for non-dungeon use.
    • Tweak: Spend the first round of combat casing a specific target and receive a to-hit/damage bonus equal to +1/+2 at 1st level, +2/+4 at 6th, +3 /+6 at 12th, +4/+8 at 18th, and +5/+10 at 24th.  An Intelligence check must be made to gain these bonuses, the CC (Challenge Class) is modified by the target's HD. You can not even attempt this if you take damage before your turn. These bonuses last that entire encounter against that particular target.
  • Climb (Dexterity): This is your basic, almost supernatural, ability to climb pretty much anything you want without equipment. Doesn't really need tweaking.
  • Death Attack: You must be hidden while studying your target for 3 rounds, then make a Sneak Attack (see below, not the same as the Rogue's classic Back-Attack.) If you succeed, the target must make a constitution save or die instantly. All well and good, but I will always prefer a Death Attack that's triggered by a natural 20. Either way, in this game, Death Attack saves are made with charisma. Monsters only have two saves, physical & mental. It seems to me that this would be a physical save for monsters.
    • Tweak: Death Attack triggered on a natural 20, then 19-20 at 12th level, and 18-20 at 24th.
  • Disguise (Charisma): You need props, make-up, and 1d3x10 minutes of prep, with some penalties for age, race, sex, etc. Then the CK rolls secretly for you and reveals if you succeeded at the appropriate time. Usual disguise rules stuff. 
    • Tweak: An almost supernatural ability to fit in where you don't belong. I've said it before, it's like stealth out in the open. The roll is made by YOU when the moment of truth comes. CC modifier equal the highest HD present.
  • Hide (Dexterity): The classic Hide in Shadows. There's really not much to tweak here. At 3rd level the Assassin can attempt to hide and move silently at the same time -- this requires two rolls, both at -5. I would require no such thing. Stealth is one of the hallmarks of thieves/rogues/assassins!
  • Listen (Wisdom): "Hear Noise." Pretty standard here, however, in SIEGE, since this is a class ability, classes that don't have it do not get to add their level to the ability roll (SIEGE check.) Here, I'll bring up one of the criticisms of SIEGE, and it really goes back to the origins of D&D itself. Why does wisdom represent awareness? Wisdom, more accurately stated, is willpower/faith. I would argue that all observation/perception type abilities/skills should be under the purview of intelligence. I know, you can have absent minded professors and such, but should clerics be the most observant members of a party? In C&C, clerics kick-ass in this department because wisdom is their prime stat. Trust me, I love clerics, but, I think not.
  • Move Silently (Dexterity): See Hide, above.
  • Poisons (Intelligence): With the aid of some alchemical equipment, the Assassin can identify and manufacture poisons and antitoxins at 1/3 the market price. The handling of poison makes Assassins a bit resistant to them (+1 vs poison at 3rd level.) Pretty vague here. No time table is given nor are alchemy kits listed in the book.
    • Tweak: You can harvest poison/toxins (actually, this would be venom, not poison) from slain monsters. An intelligence roll vs. the monster's level (HD) must be made as well as 1 turn of time (that's an old-school turn, C&C does not have 10 minute turns). Failure means you either botched it or the source was destroyed when the creature was killed. A natural "1" results in poisoning yourself. Vials are needed for storage. A vial of poison/toxin can be turned into 1d4 antitoxins with a full days work -- and another roll, failure means no antitoxin and the poison is destroyed.
    • Tweak: Your +1 save vs. poison/venom at 3rd level continues to increase with levels, it becomes +2 at 7th, +3 at 12th, +4 at 18th, and +5 at 24th. 
  • Sneak Attack: In C&C, Rogues have a back attack and a sneak attack. Assassins don't have the back attack because they have their death attack. With Sneak Attack, you can surprise attack someone walking by or even standing face to face. You get a +2/+4 attack/damage bonus and the target can't roll for initiative until the following round. But, you basically need the CK's permission to pull this off and the CK may require you make a Hide and/or Move Silently check anyway, at which point it becomes a weaker form of back attack. In this form it's more of a role-playing ability.
    • Tweak: After initiative is determined, in the first round of combat, the Assassin can use Sneak Attack on anyone who acts after him. Thus, he gets the jump on that particular target.
  • Traps (Intelligence): Finally a game that bases traps on intelligence instead of dexterity. And it's interesting that finding traps requires intelligence yet listening at doors requires wisdom. Nothing to tweak here though. One roll to find, another roll to disarm. And if you wish, a roll to set a trap of your own. Obviously setting your own trap would take time and it's not something I've ever seen come up in any game or system.
The 13th level+ abilities are mostly bonuses to surprise, initiative, dexterity, and sneak attack. At 15th level you gain a Signature Move which increases the potency of your death attack by +2 (meaning -2 to save) and at 20th level you gain an ability called Slow Kill which causes extra bleeding damage.

More to come on Castles & Crusades.

Great game.

Saturday, December 9, 2023


(Sans any skills or martial-arts what-so-ever.)

On a world where your Nightbane transformation was PERMANENT, this is what you became...

A blend of leather and metal -- straps, chains, and spikes... But this is no armor, no true exoskeleton. This is your flesh. It doesn't come off, it can not be changed. Covered, perhaps. You can still bleed, a knife still cuts, a bullet, potentially fatal, but, probably not. You are tough. Tough as nails, tough as spikes. You can take... a lot. And give a lot more.

You hardly have a face, only a hint. Your lips will never again touch those of another. Do you have other options? Not your immediate concern.

You will almost certainly never walk the daylight again.

There's an invasion. A bleak mirror-world clandestinely attacks, ultimate motive, unknown. Do you defend? How can you when you are so shunned? Sometimes you have no choice but to engage and the more you fight, the more you appreciate what you are, nightmare it may be. 

Oh, how you love kicking ass.

So be it.


Tuesday, November 14, 2023

Spotlight: OSRIC Player's Guide

Charlie Mason of Seattle Hill Games has put together a Player's Guide for OSRIC.

It is 220 pages, soft covered, spined in orange, and contains all the information a player needs for 1st Edition AD&D... as presented in OSRIC. This isn't his version of OSRIC, this is OSRIC, word for word, at least, part of it, races, classes, equipment, spells, combat rules, etc.... just laid out better including much better art.

The PDF is free, and the print copy from Amazon is only $8.

Now, numerous times, I've contemplated contacting the right folks to acquire the current Black Blade Publishing copy of OSRIC, not because I need it, rather, because I want it. But I keep hesitating. Why? Because I'm not a big fan of the layout. It pains me to say that, considering the effort these fine folks must have put into producing the book. The major flaw is the fact that many charts are not contained on the same page or two-page spread... probably to save space. You should never have to turn a page back and forth to scan the contents of a chart. All charts should be contained on a single page/two-page spread and if this creates white space, so be it, add art.

Then I got wind of an OSRIC revision project in the works, perhaps still a couple years off from completion...

So, my question at this point: Is this Player's Guide a part of that current OSRIC revision project or is it just a stand alone thing? 

Because this book is nice. Well laid out and the interior art is PERFECT. If the revision of OSRIC is done exactly like this... It would certainly make for a fat tome, no doubt, but adding the rest of OSRIC to this exact book, in this exact fashion... I'd pay a king's ransom for it.

Of note, spells in OSRIC are listed alphabetically by class, whereas traditionally, they are listed by level by class. I'm a fan of alphabetical period, not by class, not by level. Any time I need to look up a spell, I know the spell I'm looking up, finding it should be easy. If you don't do it straight alphabetically, there should be some sort of tab noting what section of the spell descriptions you've opened up to, to help guide you to you're destination.

ERRATA NOTE: On page 4, in the section on Dwarfs, under Infravision, there is a reference to the Light and Vision rules on page xxx (it should say 162). If you know the diligent folks working on this project, kindly pass this along.

Anyhow, a few samples and link below...

Classic orange spine.




I approve.

Sample two-page art spread.



You can purchase a copy at the link below.

 OSRIC Player's Guide

Nicely done.

Tuesday, October 31, 2023

Boosting...TMNT Is Back!

As most of you probably know, Palladium Books has brought back the much beloved TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES & OTHER STRANGENESS Role-Playing Game. 

An absolute no-brainer for me!

I went in for the old-school black & white, with red editions.

The Call Of Palladium...

A Cyber-Knight drawing her Psi-Sword... makes you wanna play doesn't it? And so it calls, this crazy system of games from ages past and ...