Monday, October 05, 2015

Radiotapes Intercept #1 -- More Stuff for your OSR Sci-Fi Game


You may have noticed our recent obsession with the White Star(TM) RPG, a fantastic OSR-based sci-fi core rulebook by +James Spahn. There have been a number of great resources to come out of James' Compatibility License: Graveyard at Lus by +Jason Paul McCartan, several resources by +Chuck Thorin, Drongo by +Mark Hunt, and many others.

We threw our hat in the ring with a couple of one-page adventures, Bug Hunt and Last Transmission, set in a retro sci-fi setting just prior to World War II. We followed that up with an official Galaxy Wars 1939 adventure, Legacy of the Oros.

We introduced the campaign world without a lot of background or rules, because we feel like that such things should emerge during play. Legacy of the Oros was intended to be an introduction to that world, with support on this blog. We've posted a few articles related to the campaign -- The Spy character class (which is usable in any White Star(TM) or OSR sci-fi setting) and some clarification on the level of technology and FTL.

Now we present a free (as in beer) 'zine called Radiotapes. This is intended to collect rules, classes, new psionic powers and even a few adventures, as we get to them. While some of the content is focused on the Galaxy War 1939 campaign, the majority is usable in any White Star(TM) or OSR sci-fi game.

Take a look at Radiotapes Intercept #1 and let us know what you think. We also have it in 2-up and Booklet format.

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Legacy of the Oros is Live!

Greetings from the ball turret of my Vickers space transport. 

Our first Galaxy War 1939 adventure, Legacy of the Oros is published. Click the image to purchase at OBS.

And check out this free preview!  Including the Disciple, a new character class. 

Monday, September 21, 2015

Swords & Wizardry & One Ring & Darkest Dungeon

Our regular Sunday night White Star game didn't make last night, so I had to come up with something quickly for +Brenda Wolfe and +Jesse Wolfe. They won't let me rest if we don't game on Sunday. I had about 20 minutes to decide what to do. I'd spent Saturday re-organizing my gaming bookshelf, and forgot that I had the One Ring RPG. When I got it a few months ago, I flipped through it and decided against running it -- the system looks neat, but learning, then teaching a new system to gamers that are fairly casual didn't seem like something I wanted to spend time on at the time. And on Sunday night, I certainly didn't have time to teach it. We had probably 2 hours before everyone had to get to bed. But, my eyes lingered on the book and I made a quick decision: We're going to use the setting and D&D Rules Cyclopedia. We can do this.

 I've never run a game in Middle-Earth, but have enjoyed the books since I was 12. They were the first books I read to Jesse and he's very familiar with the movies, so there's a good precedent. Brenda read them for the first time when she was pregnant with +Lukas Wolfe. She used to walk a couple of miles every day, so she'd read them while she walked -- and she loved them. Decision made. Everyone knows BX D&D and everyone loves Middle-Earth.

I skimmed the introductory adventure - seemed pretty simple -- Balin and Oin (yes that Balin and that Oin) were off delivering an invitation to the King of the Eagles for the annual gathering of the Five Armies, but they had never arrived at their destination. Gloin (yes, that Gloin) was worried and put out a call for adventurers to track down what happened to them.

Zithras, apprentice mage and the hulking warrior Shren responded, got the low down from Balin and even needled out of him that he feared that the Elvenking may have the two dwarfs in his dungeons again. Zithras, being a wily sort, even got out of the old dwarf that he feared for his brother's life because of a prophetic dream of the younger dwarf drowning in dark waters.

The two set out  out to equip for the journey. While asking around in the local Lake-Town inn about the river path and other helpful information, they attracted four likely assistants. The boatman, Danel, weary of his boring life, Mara and Frazen, woman-and-man-at-arms respectively, and the hunched and stringy haired Gorin, a scholar of the secret ways and powers of the world. Equipped and fresh-faced, the party set out for the Stair of Girion and the boatman village, for portage down the falls. After a long day across the lake, the party spent a festive evening with the boatmen, teasing out clues to the dangers ahead in the Long Marshes.
We had to break for the evening because everyone had to be up early, but the players seemed to enjoy the two hours of basic interactive role-playing. A little bit of dicing, but no combat.

I took the One Ring books to bed with me and read through character creation again, thinking maybe we could run the system. Again, I thought it was too complicated to get without having ever played it -- and then teach it to my players, especially when we have only a couple of hours a week to game. But, it got me thinking. There are interesting and unique concepts to the Middle-Earth milieu. The threat of the "shadow" or corruption of all mortal things and how the Enemy exploits that. The concept of Hope as a mechanic to fight against corruption. And the stress of travel, fighting, killing, seeing death and destruction, strange magicks and foul beasts. It immediately reminded me of Darkest Dungeons -- but also, the designer did a fine job of capturing the idea of the adventurer as just a regular person facing all these horrors, with only his or her own will against the chaos.

I thought about this all day, and in my spare moments, jotted down how it could work in a B/X system. It just didn't fit. But Swords and Wizardry... I've been doing a lot of development and gaming with White Star, which is S&W Whitebox based and I thought it was a better fit. Beyond that, S&W Complete, with it's AD&D classes made a lot more sense in Middle-Earth, as well. Middle-Earth is low magic, but I saw a way to limit Magic-Users and other spellcasters with the shadow/corruption idea.

This is what I came up with as a start.

Shadow and Hope

Characters gain shadow points, which accumulate through fear, exposure to powerful magicks, great hoards, horrible monsters, tragedies, and other calamities. Shadow points inch characters closer to corruption. Shadow points can be burned by GM against the character to trigger fumbles and other unfortunate calamities. If Shadow points equals or exceeds hope, certain beings, items and situations cause characters to temporarily lose their minds. In addition, the character must make a Saving Throw or receive an affliction (see below).

Shadow points can be reduced by GM burn, rest in a safe place, magical healing, good things happening, etc. Additionally, shadow points are accumulated by spellcasters in two ways: Any spellcaster can take a Shadow point per level of the spell and cast that spell beyond their allotted number of spells per day. Anytime a magic-user attempts to learn a spell, he or she must make a Saving Throw, or accumulate 1 Shadow point per level of the spell.

Hope is the average of Int/Wis/Chr as a base score. Hope can be used similar to Luck in DCC -- 1 point of luck per point added to any roll. 2 points of Hope allows you to re-roll any roll. Three points of Hope allow you to roll two dice and take the best result.

Stress reduces Hope, as well. Hunger, fatigue, certain weather, getting lost, death or serious injury in the party, betrayal, etc. In these instances, the character must make a Saving Throw or lose some number of Hope, depending on the situation.

Successes increase Hope: Critical hits, defeating an enemy with HD > than the party average level, Every 1000 XP. Hope gained in this way cannot exceed the character's maximum. Hope increases each level and certain magicks or other effects can increase total Hope.

Afflictions occur when Shadow equals or exceeds Hope and a Saving Throw is failed. The Affliction is temporary -- the character makes a Save each day with a penalty/bonus depending on the Shadow/Hope level. If a character is afflicted and receives another affliction, the second affliction is permanent until magically healed or the character has a full week of rest in a safe locale. A Saving Throw is made daily after the first week with the same penalty/bonus based on the Shadow/Hope level. There are debilitating afflictions and "virtues" which present as beneficial, but give the GM an opportunity to force a character's hand.


  • Paranoid -- Cannot heal shadow with rest; -2 saves vs illusions, 1/day, forced to refuse aid from party member.(GM activated with Shadow point burn)
  • Coward -- -2 to attacks when party outnumbered or outclassed (HD), -2 to saves against fear, When at 1/2 hit points, attacks at -4. 1/day Character forced to flee from danger (GM activated with Shadow point burn)
  • Selfish -- -2 to Shadow checks when character has something to gain; -2 to saves against area attacks, 1/day refuses to assist another party member (GM activated with Shadow point burn)
  • Irrational -- ??? not sure yet, -2 to saves against poisons; 1/day performs random action when faced with a stressful situation (as a Confusion spell) (GM activated with Shadow point burn)
  • Hopeless -- Shadow point accumulation doubled; -2 saves against diseases; 1/day Character's ennui causes a Shadow Saving Throw for the whole party ((GM activated with Shadow point burn)
  • Abusive -- Acts last in combat; -2 saves against shadow creatures effects; 1/day Character's abusive attitude causes a Shadow Saving Throw for the whole party ((GM activated with Shadow point burn)
  • Greedy -- Attacks enemy with the most valuable gear; -2 saves against treasure-based shadow (dragon fever); 1/day Attempts to steal from another party member ((GM activated with Shadow point burn)


  • Powerful -- Damage +2; Saves +2 vs mind control; Shadow points can't be reduced
  • Courageous -- Shadow -2; Taking damage for another character reduces everyone's Shadow by 2; Must fight the most powerful enemy. 
  • Stalwart -- Shadow total halved; +2 to saves against affliction/corruption; Must stand and fight, last man standing
  • Vigorous -- Heal 1 HD; +2 saves versus disease/poison; Gains x2 Stress
  • Focused -- +2 to attack; Critical hit on 19; Saves +2 vs shadow creatures; Surprised on a 1-3

So, that may be too complicated, but I wanted to try it out. It definitely changes the D&D dynamic -- great hoards of treasure have the potential to corrupt. It provides consequences for murder-hobo actions. Codifying it with rules and things may not fit the S&W style. We'll see. I'm still mining One Ring for some other stuff, as well.

I have some ideas for alternate XP methods -- more "story awards" and roleplaying bonuses. +Brenda Wolfe 's character told a story by the lake-men's campfire, so I awarded her 100 XP. Nothing too innovative -- I've done this a bit in the past, but I think it may be critical here.

We played another short session tonight with the new rules. More on that later...

Monday, September 14, 2015

Galaxy War 1939: The Legacy of the Oros Preview

My first White Star compatible product is inching ever closer to release. I've changed the name of the thing three or four times, and may end up changing it again. What hasn't changed is the awesome cover art that +James Shields painted up for me. I've been futzing with the layout and composition (two words I barely understand, frankly). But I got a blessing from some folks that I trust, so here's the preview.

And to stay committed to posting gameable content to this blog, here's a further preview -- the typical Nazi patrol with its Light Hover Support Vehicle.

Weltkriegsmarine Squad (6)

AC: 5 [14]; HD: 1+1; hp: 6 each; Atk: Kar98k Rifle (1d6+1); or Grenade (3d6/2d6) SV: 18; MV: 12; Possessions: Medium armor, Kar98k Rifle, 3 grenades, 15 rounds ammunition; HDE/XP: 1/15

Weltkriegsmarine are the standard combat troops of the Deutschstern Reich. They are typically equipped with standard rifles, grenades and medium armor. Squads are composed of five individuals led by a Rottenf├╝hrer, or squad leader. Platoons (6 squads) are led by a Sturmscharf├╝hrer or platoon leader. These leaders have maximum hit points.

Art by ME! 

Sd.Kfz. 2250

Light Hover Support Vehicle

AC 4 [15]; HP 20; MV 15; Target +0; Atk MG34 machinegun (2d6; ROF 3) [crew-operated]; Other Equipment: Short wave radio; Crew: Driver and gunner (as Weltkriegsmarine above)

The Sd.Kfz 2250 is an armored hover vehicle used to provide fire and communications support for patrols of weltkriegsmarine in the rough highlands of Churchill IV. Though lightly armored, the vehicle takes no damage from light weapons. A squad of troops can ride on the back and sides of the vehicle, though it only provides a modicum of cover.

Friday, September 11, 2015

The Vampir Strikes!

Here's a second preview for the upcoming Galaxy War 1939 adventure that we'll be publishing soon (hopefully this weekend!).

The Nazis have taken control of the British system Churchill IV, and its eponymous Earth-like planet. After the initial invasion, the Nazis encountered stiff resistance from the miners left in the northwestern highlands. After months of fighting the dissidents, Nazi high-command unleashed their secret weapon: the kriegstier -- alien predators biologically enhanced to hunt the partisans, rooting them out of their cave and mine redoubts.

With the suppression operations at an end, the Nazis now need to get control of the krigstier, which immediately adapted to their new environment. They need the precious metals found in the northwest highlands in order to fuel the galaxy-spanning war machine. To support this, they have issued a general system directive allowing off-duty units to travel to Churchill IV and hunt down the kriegstier.

As the population of kriegstier hunters grows, so does their arsenal. The ME-22 Vampir is one of the key pieces in the hunt for the kriegstier and any remaining dissidents. A small stunt fighter, the Vampir is typically a short-range interceptor (it lacks a rail monitor for inter-system travel) launched from much larger carrier ships. Within the atmosphere, the Vampir is agile, fast, and capable of hovering. It is one of the few Deutschstern Reich fighters to mount laser cannons, giving it a good punch of firepower.

Wednesday, September 09, 2015

The Tools of the Trade

In my Galaxy War 1939 home campaign, I needed to give a thought to technology – it’s a retro-sci fi / alternate history setting, so futuristic computers, weapons and other equipment don’t necessarily exist, especially as ubiquitously as in other high-tech settings. The technology of space travel sprang onto the human race almost instantaneously, rumored to be some strange alien find in the Mongolian highlands. So, a fast technological leap meant that certain technologies just haven’t got there yet. Starships are hardy, but not as well-developed as, say a Star Wars type setting. Standard firearms are modified to function in space or different atmospheres, but they are essentially the same weapons used in 1939. Even the man-portable lasers are so new that they are bulky, rare and expensive. Heavier, crew-served laser weapons are also impractically expensive for every starship or vehicle to mount.

Additionally, the “treasure” system I’m using often calls for XdX rolls on the equipment table, so I needed a numbered table of equipment to more efficiently support that. So, what I did was take the standard White Star equipment table and rebuild it for my purposes. What you’ll see are slight changes, some things removed, some consolidated (like hand weapons), and some tweaks to prices and weights to account for the newness of the technology.

I added descriptions where necessary – where they differ from the standard White Star descriptions. Let me know if you see something amiss or have questions. The Big Plan™ is to release this campaign information as a pay-what-you-want PDF in a nicely formatted presentation. For now, they’re blogposts, mostly intended to get things organized for my home group.

Equipment Table

Ammo Bandoleer – Laser weapons in this campaign are larger, thus the energy cells are likewise more bulky. A clip for a standard weapon holds 10 shots.

Scanning Binoculars (infrared) – Other than standard binoculars, scientists have also developed bulky, night-vision binoculars. These devices display an infra-red image at the standard power of binoculars. They can also be switched to “day mode.” 

Gas Mask (particulate) – This is a standard gas mask intended to filter out poisonous or biological agents from breathable air. The mask filter is good for 10 turns of continuous operation. 

Environmental Mask (particulate filter and provides oxygen) – This gas mask includes a small oxygen bottle that attaches to the belt with a hose to the mask filter, providing breathable air, as well as the standard filter capabilities of the gas mask. The oxygen and mask filter last for 24 hours of non-strenuous activity. For more strenuous use, GMs can modify the operation time. Oxygen bottles weigh 12 lbs and cost 50 credits. A refill of an existing bottle costs 20 credits. 

Environmental Suit (atmosphere) – This system provides a protective suit with an environmental mask. The suit provides no armor protection, but protects the user from hostile environments, such as extreme heat or cold, corrosive atmospheres, and the like. The suit can operate continually for 24 hours of strenuous activity, and unless destroyed, can be cleaned and recharged for further use. 

Environmental Suit (space) – A bulky space suit, combined with environmental mask with oxygen, shielded helmet and protection from heat/cold and the vacuum of space. The space suit can operate continually for 24 hours of strenuous activity.

Basic radio (shortwave paraset) – This radio set is a miniaturized version of a larger shortwave
radio, with whip antenna, handset and parabatteries. The set has a range of ~1000 miles depending on the length of the antenna and interference. With the addition of accessories, the paraset can be used as a radiotape reader/writer and basic computational device. 

Rail monitor radio set – This radio set is a specialized device that interfaces with a ship’s rail monitor, allowing for communication between star systems using the rail network. Though radiohacks are expert in the use and operation of the rail monitor radio, others can successfully use the device with a Saving Throw. 

Jet Pack – The jet packs of 1939 are bulky, expensive and dangerous. Each use requires a Saving Throw to successfully take off and land. Some versions incorporate glider-like wings – the jet pack serves to get the pilot off the ground, while the wings guide and extend flight after the jet is turned off. 

Radio-Tape Reader – Information is stored on a technology called radio-tapes (think a reel-to-reel tape system of later years). The radio tape reader is an accessory to the basic radio paraset and includes a small text-based screen and keyboard, in order to read/write data to the radio-tapes.


Weapons in 1939 are different from a standard White Star campaign setting. Man-portable laser weapons exist, but they are more rare, heavier, and expensive. Most soldiers, pirates and scalawags use standard firearms, though soldiers may have submachineguns and machineguns, as well as rocket launchers and other heavy weapons. Mono-molecular melee weapons and star swords are not known to exist.

* These weapons are considered “heavy weapons” and can damage starships and other vehicles. 


The technology of standard issue armor is much lower than the standard White Star RPG campaign. Though some laser reflective coating exists, for the most part, standard armors are less effective against laser attacks. Rumors of recently developed armored space suits, “war suits” and other forms of personal protection are rampant but unconfirmed. Most front-line soldiers and partisans only have access to light armor, relying on cover and concealment to protect them from attacks. Energy shields do not exist, though shields with laser coating are a recently available and expensive protective device. 

* When subject to laser attack, AC [AAC] is reduced by +2 [-2]

Monday, September 07, 2015

Beware the Chitin Bear...

I did this one-page adventure for a White Star contest over on the White Star community, and against all odds, I won. I released the one-pager as a pay-what-you-want over on RPGNow/Drivethru, but in running the adventure for my home group, I expanded the concept of the adventure significantly. I've written a couple of blogposts about it, and my home group really likes it (which is always good when you take an experimental campaign leap and introduce a new ruleset all at once).

Anyway, since the community seemed to like the concept and my home group is enjoying the game, I'm putting the whole thing together and releasing it as a PDF and print adventure. All of the art is in (from +James Shields and +Jason Sholtis), and I'm working through the final edits and layout. Expecting to have it out for your perusal by the end of the week.

But, while you wait, check out the Chitin Bear, one of the many kriegstier that were released by the Deutschstern Reich in order to complete the subjugation of the United Kingdom of Planets' possession: Churchill IV...

Nazi guts are Spicy... Art by +Jason Sholtis