Originally meant to share this as a doc over Google Drive, but apparently something is borked with linking via G+. A good chunk of these (especially the skill system) were actually ripped off from Lamentations of the Flame Princess. I plan on also using these ideas with Swords & Wizardry Whitebox in the future. All of my White Star rules are printed out in a school notebook binder, along with most of the Hyperspace Messengers by DwD Studios and the Psionics supplement by DYS Games.
Today’s post is looking at five different supplements available from RPGNow, each of them no more than a few bucks. I’ve been enjoying the hell out of White Star. And one of the solid strengths of it is the amazing community and third-party support that is running with it.
Psionics is what it says on the tin: a psionicist class for White Star. The “Star Knight” and “Alien Mystic” classes are fine for Jedi-style flavor, but I know in my particular home campaign I’m not really a fan of having them. Not to mention their meditations and gifts felt too much like D&D counterparts, which isn’t exactly what I was hoping for. I loved the “Psychic” class out of Stars Without Number, but it’s a bit beefy to implement in the liter rules of White Star.
So for an alternative, Matthew Skail gave us a class that acquires a number of powers (and a limited number of uses a day) based on level. The difference here is each power (called disciplines) is available to choose from level 1, and it scales by the character’s level. Psionicists also get to choose a focus at level 1, which is an ability they can use that doesn’t spend one of their daily power uses.
What’s great is each discipline has a variety of uses, and even when you can only kick them off once a day they turn out handy. For instance: “Cellular Adjustment” provides a pool of d6’s equal to level. The duration of the power, however, is 1 hour. In that time, the psionicist can take that pool of dice and spend it how they want between themselves and others. Some of those dice can also be spent to grant a target extra saving throws versus poison or disease, and at max level can revive someone who was recently slain (but with some tolls put on them.
Other powers are what you would expect — mind assault, shielding, remote viewing, telekinesis, etc. But all of them offer an array of effects and aren’t just one time tricks that are spent and gone.
Pros: A damn fine alternative psychic-powered utility class that offers options but is mechanically sound for the lighter aspects of the system. Would even make a good class for fantasy-based games using Whitebox style rules. Artwork is pretty cool and appropriate.
Quibbles: The only cons I have about this are minor nags of preference: the flavor text still has this element of the fantastic, such as references to the “Akashic Overmind” and forming temples at higher level. This is easily remedied with hand waving, and isn’t terribly distracting. There’s also something not quite grabbing me about the choice of font and size, and I wished the tables and pictures ran alongside the text as opposed to being breaks between text and taking up their own real-estate — leaving a bit of negative space on the page. I’m guilty of these things in my own self-released games, though, so I really have no room to talk.
Drongo: Planet of Peril
So I’ve established my home game is a bit more gritty science fiction, but that’s not to say I don’t have a special place in my heart for pulpy science fantasy. I’m a lover of Heavy Metal magazine, my dad raised me on old Flash Gordon serials, and Krull has to be one of my favorite movies. Drongo cites Burroughs and Howard as inspiration — and frankly if you don’t love those guys, I’m not sure we’re on the same level.
This is a world ruled by a powerful magician in a city that marries science and magic, who is ruthless and is described as being only steps away from godhood. This is a world of swords and rayguns, of nomadic tribes and futuristic armies (and at least one time traveler.) The booklet gives us a brief history, seven major factions, about seventeen regions/places of interest, descriptions on a handful of common languages, a couple pages devoted to the ruler Tiverrig, Tamer of Worlds, and finishes with a brief bestiary of six creatures. The artwork is thematic and kicksass, the font choice is crisp and looks good on my tablet. It’s gonzo without being overboard, and is a great example of a setting that can pull in things from other OSR games regardless of genre.
Pros: An awesome Gazeteer for an insane setting that fits the bill for those wanting to go more sci-fantasy/pulp with their White Star games.
Quibbles: No map provided, which is a bummer since we have all these cool regions offered to us. I’d settle for a plain global map, with blobs of regions just so I knew a vague concept of where everything was in relation to each other.
Hyperspace Messenger #1: Stunners
This tiny rules add-on introduces a mechanic for stunning opponents using a tweak to the Saving Throw system. From there, it provides a few new weapons and a couple pieces of defenses specifically around stun attacks.
Pros: Manages to successfully tack on stunning/knock-out system without having to track “bashing” hit point damage or adding an entirely new subsystem. DwD products have a nice layout for the digest format, meaning easy to read on a tablet.
Quibbles: For a buck it’s hard for me to say it’s a bit short, but I wished there was a little more to it. Regardless, it’s a sound mechanic and at least the nice layout and formatting means I have no probs stuffing my printout for game night.
Hyperspace Messenger #2: Robots
This is substantially beefier than issue #1, and in a lot of ways is a steal. This book functions a mini-bestiary, I suppose, of NPC robots to use at the game table. It takes the assumption that PC robots are unique, cool, or stand out compared to normal everyday ones. That said, Bill has provided 9 fleshed out robots to serve as a basis for different uses (medic, scout, protocol, etc.) He’s also provided a variety of scanners, and each robot is listed with a cost should a player want to recruit the aid of one (or more.)
Pros: A robot for (almost) every occasion, fully statted out and ready to roll in your campaign.
Quibbles: Would have been cool to have some add-ons for PC robots, but once again for a buck who can complain?
Hyperspace Messenger #3: Aliens
Bill’s gone crazy, folks. I think my comment towards issue #1 drove him mad, and now he’s pumping out high-value products for dirt cheap.
Aliens is all about creating new “race as class” Alien types tailored for your campaign (or completely made at random.) The first chunk of the supplement is an easy step-by-step guide to cherry pick or randomly roll up features and characteristics of the new alien race. When it’s all wrapped up, you tally up XP value based on the results. This is what it takes to reach level 2 for the character, and each level after doubles that value. Easy peasy.
But he doesn’t stop there — He then presents 5 sample alien classes, each one with a full page write up and full colored artwork by the incredibly awesome Khairul Hisham.
Pros: A really fun, random, old-school style method of generating new and unique alien races to populate your game. Once again, good layout and the artwork rocks.
Quibbles: The overwhelming sense of guilt I have for only paying a buck for this.
Hacking White Star with a “Lamentations” style skill system is easy to implement and play.
I can appreciate the simplicity of White Star. Having spent quite a bit of time enjoying Redbox/Rules Cyclopedia D&D, I actually tend to prefer the older “basic” games than later era editions. And while I adore Stars Without Number, I feel any time you can make characters quickly with minimal reading or look up it crucial. Especially with my sporadic game nights. Even though SWN is far from complicated, the backgrounds, skills and psychic abilities do tend to drag character creation out a bit.
Still, I’m also a fickled asshole that likes some further characteristics or options. A handful of skills never hurt anyone. So tonight, while listening to the storms roll across our little abode out here in Texas, I actually had a moment on how to expand White Star without getting bogged in minutiae.
Everyone’s an Expert
Initially, I was longing for some kind of Agent class to tack on to White Star. Bill Logan has a pretty good home brewed one that I may still opt for instead. But, one idea that hit me was to borrow the skill system from Lamentations of the Flame Princess. In short: every skill is rated 1-6, and when you perform said skill you roll a d6. Match or roll under, you succeed. Roll over, you fail.
Now, Lamentations had an
Expert * Specialist class (instead of a Thief or Rogue) that was pretty much the only class that gained skill points. But looking at the list, outside of Sneak Attack, there wasn’t really anything combat related. Taking the skills into consideration with the White Star classes, none of them stepped on the toes of any class roles. So, instead of adding a new class, I’m simply going to give all characters skills starting at 1 out of 6. Then, at first level, they have 3 more points to distribute among them, and then each level afterwards they gain another point. Having an Intelligence bonus at Level 1 grants a bonus point at startup; having a penalty negates a point.
I did a cut/paste job in Publisher with the White Star character sheet, adding a column for skills (including blanks for anything the players come up with and I approve.) Feel free to grab it and abuse it in your games.
* — it was late and I was storm weary. LoTFP has a “Specialist” class, SWN had the “Expert” class.
I have a curse where every time I say “I don’t need another OSR game!” I open up my wallet and acquire another one.
White Star is written by James M. Spahn and released by Barrel Rider Games. The gist of it is they took the rules from Swords & Wizardry Whitebox and hacked it into their own super slick science fiction game. Now, I’m already a rabid fan of Kevin Crawford’s Stars Without Number, and I was hesitant to toss $10 at a lighter, simpler game. Especially when SWN is a free pdf on its own, and is filled with some of the coolest toys in the sandbox.
But White Star hasn’t disappointed. Yes, it sticks with its white box roots pretty easily (matter of fact, it’s completely compatible with S&W Whitebox and suggests having your fantasy characters leaving their planet without any conversion necessary.) There’s only a handful of classes (Aristocrat, Mercenary, Pilot and Star Knight) and a couple generic “races as classes” (Alien Brute, Alien Mystic, and a Robot class.) It’s pretty straight forward, with only the classic six core abilities, a single “Saving Throw” rating, hit points and equipment (and maybe some spell like powers for the mystical classes.)
Where the Star Shines the Brightest
White Star caters to the pulpy, space-saga style games. As you can tell from the class name Star Knight, a particular movie franchise about wars in the stars is a major influence here. But its author has also made call outs to Flash Gordon and John Carter of Mars here. Spaceship combat is about as straight forward as personal combat, and keeping track of ship statistics isn’t anywhere near a headache. It may not have the random tables and setting tags that SWN has, but it does offer a nice broad-stroke setting with just the right amount of details for a GM to work with, leaving elbow room for them to expand how they want.
The layout is also formatted for a digest-sized, single-column style that has become a personal preference. I’ve been reading this book on my phone as much as my tablet or PC, and it loads fast and doesn’t hurt the eyes. It’s slick, with good font choices and decent artwork littered throughout. There are some typos and needed errata, but the folks behind it have been pretty frequent with the corrections. Once things are finalized, and the POD books are available, I do plan on purchasing myself one. But, in the mean time, I have no hesitation at the thought of printing out my own copy of the 127 page book on my home printer.
But what’s easily it’s greatest strength is the love and support it’s getting from the fanbase and third party publishers
already. The game is OGL, and released with its own compatibility standards. Hitting up the White Star Google Plus Community bombards you with tons of house rules and independently released products. Matter of fact, I’m going to probably do a future write up over the Hyperspace Messenger add-ons written by Bill Logan of DwD Studios. The game stands fine on its own, but anyone who has followed me long enough knows I love games that encourage tinkering and DIY expansion.
White Star is a fun Science Fiction title that takes the modesty of whitebox rules and does a lot more than just adding lasers. It captures a particular cinematic or pulp flavor, and doesn’t leave you referencing a bunch of tables or rules when aiming for the stars. It may feel somewhat simplistic compared to even other OSR-influenced space games, but it’s a solid foundation that is easy to build upon.
This should be filed under “stuff I think of in the shower.”
A long time ago I compared d20/3rd edition Dungeons & Dragons to your standard, Wheel of Time fantasy cover art, while 4th Edition was like the front cover of a Hammerfall album cover. In the years since then, I must say my views of older and newer editions have shifted quite a bit. So I think a better comparison scale would be actual music and songs to represent each edition.
Typical disclaimer: I’m not trying to associate bands that were popular during the years these editions came out, and these are strictly my picks for songs that I feel capture the moods and memories I have tied to playing those editions.
Older Editions, up to AD&D 1e — “Broadsword” by Jethro Tull
Reasons: This song reminds me of the feelings I had glancing at my older brother’s AD&D books as a child: something powerful, epic, with imagery of valor and knighthood. Not so heavy on the magic, but filled with wonder, faith and honor.
AD&D 2ND EDITION — “Over Hills and Far Away” covered by Nightwish
Reasons: It’s that feeling of “Oh hey, I know this — but, it’s different. A bit prettier in places, a bit more refined.” Some people swear by this version, still many preferred the original.
D&D 3e/3.5/d20: “Instrumedley” by Dream Theater
Reasons: Because sometimes the beauty is found in the complexity of things. So much depth, layers, and technique. It’s daunting as all hell to play but damn if it isn’t awesome.
D&D 4e: “Through the Fire and the Flames” by DragonForce
Reason: Because upon first playing it I’m like “Holy shitballs THIS IS EPIC!” Then it got old pretty quick. I still like it, still have fond memories, but if given the choice I’d rather play Dream Theater again.
The OSR / Retroclone Games: “Riders of the Night” by Stone Axe
Reasons: “DUDE we were rocking this back in ’76!” “Dude, this came out in 2009…” “Oh, well, shit it still rocks.”
Special Mention — Lamentations of the Flame Princess: “SadoWitch” by Electric Wizard (NSFW) (See what I did there?)
Reasons: Because some people actually enjoy the aesthetic of black magic, acid, and S&M.
5th Edition D&D: “Far Cry” by RUSH
Reasons: Because it’s too new to be Old School, too old to be New School. It’s enough of a throwback to what made the older stuff good but still feels fresh. It stands on its own just fine, and there’s a lot to enjoy here. Who cares if it’s new or old…it’s
FUCKING D&D FUCKING RUSH.