Tag Archives: OSR

WHITE STAR: Expert Skills (Hack)

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. 

WHITE STAR: A Rambling Review

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-single-covers-frontWhite 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.

WS
Taken from the Barrel Rider Games FB page.

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.

TL;DR Version

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.

 

My Playlist for D&D Comparisons…

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.

 

Free-For-All Friday: Gory Abominations Edition (6/20/2014)

Pandemonio Released for Free!

121027Pandemonio is an updated “amalgamation”  of the Book of Pandemonium role-playing games by Rafael Chandler, and this week he released it as an early Free RPG Day present! This bills itself as “a fast-paced game of splatterpunk action set in a world of violence and decay.” From the description:

“You’re a Disciple, a supernatural warrior on the front lines. Wielding bizarre magics like Sexpletive, Death Panel, Photobomb, and Gunfetti, you must hunt down the diabolical and divine, rescue innocent civilians, and maintain a grip on the tattered vestiges of your humanity. How far will you go to destroy your enemy? Will you resort to cannibalism? Are you certain? Listen, don’t knock it until you’ve tried it.”

So far, I’ve only glanced through the Player’s Guide and already I’m blown away with the amount of brutal content that is given away here.  There’s at least 75 pages of Magic that includes some of the most hardcore spell lists I’ve seen in a while.  The artwork varies in styles but it’s all pretty perfect for an over the top, gruesome game. Plus, the system focuses on d12’s — it’s about time they get some more love!

If you’re looking for an off-colored modern day gore-fest of slaying angels and demons, you can’t go wrong with Pandemonio — especially at the cost of Free.

 

Chaos Hordes Released!

This week I discovered Prismatic GM’s old-school blog The Borderlands via re-posts sharing his latest project, Chaos Hordes.  A compilation of his Fortnight of Chaos articles, the document is a collection of Warhammer Fantasy inspired write ups for various chaos marauders, demons and mutations for use with OSR-styled systems. I’ve always enjoyed the Warhammer setting and universe, but have always struggled to acquire or run the games with my groups. This fan project has delivered in all the right places, and now I’m seriously contemplating using it along with Lamentations of the Flame Princess to run a very “grim dark” setting.

Sigil & Shadow News:

I’ve started sharing with a select circle of peeps for possible play testing and feedback.  Already have had some good ideas returned to me, and I’m hoping to get some more actual playtime in over the next couple weeks with some separate play groups.

 

That’s all I got for this week! Hope everyone has a good weekend (remember it’s Free RPG Day at participating game shops!)

 

Plotting a Fate Hexcrawl Campaign

Here’s the deal: I’ve been enjoying the hell out of Fate Core and FAE. I love fast playing mechanics, adaptable systems, and the philosophy of  “Emulate Fiction, not Simulate Reality” really won me over. I’ve spent a huge chunk of my time in the RPG hobby playing games like World of Darkness, High Valor and others that focus on the story telling over the rules crunching. But I’m also a sucker for fantasy crawls, especially OSR “Sandbox” games and open world style adventures. This past year I’ve fallen in love with games like ACKS, played in an awesome polynesian-themed Lamentation of the Flame Princess campaign, and continue to enjoy game products put out by Sine Nomine (Stars Without Number, Other Dust.) 

Talking with my girlfriend last night, it dawned on me that Fate is an awesome system to plan a sandbox in. To me, the appeal of Open World/Sandbox gaming isn’t that there’s “no plot,” but that there’s lots of plot hooks for the players to take advantage of in making their own story. While what I’m about to share is a bit more planning than what Fate Core advises, I think it still hits a sweet spot in leaving some “flex” room for the GM and players to develop in-game.

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