Tag Archives: sci-fi

[WHITE STAR] My House Rules (Dec 2015)

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. 

Continue reading [WHITE STAR] My House Rules (Dec 2015)

[WHITE STAR]: 5 Quick & Dirty Supplement Reviews

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.


150990-thumb140Author: Matthew Skail
Cost: $1.99
Page Count: 11 (including cover  and license)

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.

RPGNow Link

Drongo: Planet of Peril

151029-thumb140Author: M. A. Hunt / Leviathan Publishing
Cost: $2.99
Page Count: 17 (including cover and license.)

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.

RPGNow Link

Hyperspace Messenger #1: Stunners

149695-thumb140Author: Bill Logan / DwD Studios
Cost: $1
Page Count: 10 (6 pages of rules, 2 covers + inside cover)

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.

RPGNow Link

Hyperspace Messenger #2: Robots

150020-thumb140Author: Bill Logan / DwD Studios
Cost: $1
Page Count: 16 (12 are rules)

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?

RPGNow Link

Hyperspace Messenger #3: Aliens

150912-thumb140Author: Bill Logan / DwD Studios
Cost: $1
Page Count: 20 (16 is material, the rest is covers/license)

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.

RPGNow Link

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.

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.



Matt Bryant has released a revised version of MAIN SEQUENCE, a rules-lite Space RPG using based on the WyRM system as it was derived from WYRED. This new booklet is a full sized version, filled with some cleaner definitions of the rules and with added examples to help new players hop into the game. It even includes sample characters and a space ship (from his actual campaign!) to give a better idea of how the game looks in play.

Saturn Eclipse — provided by NASA

I’m super stoked to be hosting this game for him, and I encourage anyone looking for a quick and dirty sci-fi rules system that is inherently lite (but still packs a punch) to give it a shot. It’s free, and like all our games here it’s released under the Creative Commons Attribution, Non-Commercial ShareAlike 3.0 License. Meaning you’re free to hack this sucker apart, share it with friends, and make new works out of it. Have fun!

REWIRED Diary: Where We’re At, and Where We’re Going

So last post, I typed your eyeballs off about the different projects leading up to REWIRED.  Today I want to babble for a bit looking at where the project currently is, and where I’d like to go with it.

The Tenets

What follows are the design goals I’ve had since WYRED, and that continue into the new game:

  • “Quick & Dirty Role-Playing”
    There is a difference between rules “lite” and what I refer to as “Rules Necessary”: It’s a balance of crunchy details and speed of play. I want them to play fast and hard. If looking up a rule during game play takes longer than 8 seconds on average, I’m failing.
  • Character Creation: Get In, Get Moving.
    I don’t want players to have to read through hefty tomes and do complex mathematics in order to fill out a character sheet for the first time. I want everything lined out and in as plain of English as possible for them. I want them to have options, exciting ones, but not a condemning list of arbitrary nuances and stat nudges to make them feel they’re building their character “wrong.”  I want every perk or tag they write down on their sheet to be easy to remember. And I definitely don’t believe in flooding them with a catalog of equipment with crazy names and similar stats.
  • Combat As Fast as it is Deadly.
    Maybe it’s because I’m older, and now finding time to schedule and run RPG groups has become sparse, but combat sessions that last an hour have become tiresome to me.  I’m also tired of players scoffing at a hand pistol or a knife and thinking there’s no threat.  I want combat to be resolved in just a few turns, and part of that is I want combat to be deadly. Any punk with a gun and an attitude is a threat; playing stupid and not taking advantage of things like cover results in your stat crunched monster being dropped in a single shot by a sniper in the wings.
  • Run It On the Fly:
    I pride myself on showing up to a game armed with only a single page of notes, a few note cards of NPC’s and being able to run a complete 5-hour session. Statting out opponents by the seat of my pants should only take a minute or two, and the system is streamlined enough that it should be easy to decide what kind of dice checks are needed when.

So Why a New Game?

WYRED pretty much sprung up as “How can I modify the WyRM system to run a cyberpunk game?” I wanted it to be compatible with WR&M and RAG as much as possible, while offering some new mechanical twists and tweaks. I plan on keeping it that way; the WyRM rules is a fun system.

REWIRED, on the other hand, is an overhaul based on personal preference. It’s still rooted in its predecessors, but has forked off into its own mechanics and systems. There’s a lot of stuff still held over: a lot of terminology used in WYRED remains in play here. But a lot has changed, too:

  • Core Mechanic has been changed from a d6+Stat+Skill system to a 3D6+Skill or Stat system. There’s also no more exploding dice. I found the original system to be “feast or famine” with the results….either tremendous failures or ridiculous successes went down, rarely did we see a middle ground.
  • Skills are now flat ratings instead of bubbled in skill ranks. They’re also separated by Combat, Action and Knowledge Skills.
  • Augmentations are now treated as Perks instead of being bought. I like this because it makes enhancements a bigger deal, and makes players who’d rather focus on natural skills and talents shine just as much as chrome junkies.
  • Wealth is now a rated Perk, evolved from WYRED’s Lifestyle rules. Pretty much, this leaves the only “bean counting” in the game to an economy based on XP.
  • Damage is now tracked differently. Instead of using “wound” points, all characters have the same condition tracker. Damage is still derived from the base attack roll; now players use a Toughness rating to determine the threshold that roll-over damages the character by.
  • Combat is still a single-roll based system, but now takes in modifiers considering range, movement, cover and the like in more detail. Also, the system now uses ranged measurements instead of the abstracted Range Bands from RAG for more tactical play.
  • Other Stuff includes reworked Hacking rules, more detailed Vehicle and Drone rules, equipment modifications and even psionics.

WannaRideOilSketchWhere We Go from Here:

Draft v.12 is pretty much the completion of the framework for the REWIRED rules. This makes the core game system broken down into 5 PocketMod booklets, easy to distribute at the game table and broken up for quick reference. What it needs now is play testing, and lots of it.  Numbers need to be vetted, typos need to be reported. A good example is cybereyes in the Augmentations and Enhancements Guide….still references additional upgrades for $500 (a carry over from WYRED) that needs to be fixed for the new Wealth system.

Moving forward, as the rules get tested and tweaked, I’m beginning to work on a full fledged Core Rule Book. It’ll feature the same rules found in the PocketMods, but will be written in more detail to help new players get into the game. Character concepts, campaign ideas, a sample setting, guide lines for GM’s to keep things interesting, so on and so forth.

And once again, the game will continue to be published under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 License.  This means you’ll be free to distribute the game and modify it for your own projects.

Want to help the project? Biggest help I can ask for is feedback.  Download the game and feel free to leave some comments here. You can also join the playtest community on Google Plus.