Tuesday, March 15, 2011

WotRP: Zodangan battle ship sketches

Work continues on art for Warriors of the Red Planet. Fresh from my sketchbook are these concepts for Zodangan battleships. Note, these are just rough sketches - I'll take the best designs and do more polished drawings for the book.

Excerpt: Sorcerers of the Black Gate

Ongoing playtesting for Warriors of the Red Planet has been set in my Omegea campaign setting, which you'll be familiar with if you follow my main blog, Beyond the Black Gate. Omegea has a little of everything genre-wise: Sword&Planet, Dying Earth, Pulp Sword&Sorcery. I originally used the Magic User class from Swords & Wizardry, but as the classes of WotRP evolved, this just didn't mesh very well them.

So it became clear that in addition to the standard classes of WotRP, it would be helpful to include a bit of magic as well, though very firmly planted in the tradition of Vance's Dying Earth as opposed to the more ubiquitous wizards of "high fantasy" literature and gaming. While I felt it should be included, I also didn't want to make it a focus or even standard option of WotRP, but rather something the Referee could decide whether or not to include if it fit his or her own setting. Thus, the Sorcerer class has its own appendix (called "Sorcerers of the Black Gate") at the back of the book, and includes all-new spells (some of which were previewed by a certain Hot Elf Chick recently) and magic items as well as some other goodies. In this humble position, you are free to ignore it or include it, as you will.

Here's an excerpt from this short, but hopefully helpful, appendix:


Sorcerers are weavers of mystical energies and practitioners of Dark Arts. They are typically obsessed with the acquisition of lore and lost knowledge, be it through esoteric research or physical exploration. Beware a Sorcerer – their minds do not move in the same directions as normal folk!

Sorcerers may use any weapon (some are actually quite accomplished fencers!), but typically carry little more than a belt knife. They almost never wear any sort of armor.


Magic Sense: With one minute of uninterrupted concentration, a Sorcerer can determine whether an item, location, or creature has been sorcerously enchanted. While this sense will give a vague impression of the nature of the enchantment, specificity requires more intense and lengthy research.

Esoteric Knowledge: This percentile chance represents a Sorcerer’s ability to decipher ancient languages or magical script, to research lost knowledge, and to learn new spells. Sorcerers with high Intelligence (13+) may add +5% to this chance.

Spells: Legends purport that, in the distant past, thousands of sorcerous spells were once known. Today, fewer than a hundred are known to remain. The more spells a Sorcerer is able to acquire, the greater his infamy and renown! Sorcerers begin their careers with 1d3 spells in their spellbook, and may copy new ones into their book as they find them. While a character automatically knows how to use their "starter" spells, newly acquired spells require an Esoteric Knowledge roll to learn. If the roll is a failure, special instruction must be sought to to help them learn the spell.

At their essence, spells are a refined combination of materials, incantations, geometric patterns, quantum equations, and arcane physics. A spell must be memorized and held captive in the Sorcerer’s mind, like a caged beast screaming for release, until cast out. A Sorcerer may only memorize and cast a limited number of spells each day. Sorcerers of unusually high Intelligence (13+) may memorize one additional first level spell per day.

Corruption: The use of Sorcery is often damaging to the mind and body of the arcane practitioner. Upon attaining each level after the first, the Sorcerer must roll on the RANDOM CORRUPTION TABLE and suffer the result!

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Excerpt: "Sample Character Generation"


Carl rolls the following abilities (rolling 4d6, adding up the best three dice) and records them in order on a piece of paper:

Strength 16

Intelligence 13

Wisdom 8

Dexterity 14

Constitution 10

Charisma 11

With strength as his greatest ability, and inspired by ERB’s martian tales of John Carter, Carl elects to become a Fighting Man, and chooses his race as Human. As a Fighting Man, Carl may select a combat bonus to either melee or ranged attacks, and, with visions of flashing swords running through his imagination, selects melee. He then rolls a d6 for Hit Points, getting a “4”, and as a Fighting Man, gets to add three to that number for a total of 7 hit points!

Carl then rolls 2d6, getting a result of “9”, and multiplies this result by 10, which grants him a total of 90gp to purchase his starting equipment with. Scanning over the lists of basic gear, weapons, and armor, he selects a longsword (15gp), an Irradium pistol (20gp), ten bullets (5gp), a basic weapons harness (5gp), as well as 50’ of rope, a grappling hook, and an Irradium torch for illumination (17 more gp). He then subtracts his expenditures from his money, records his equipment on his paper, and figures out his armor class.

Carl decides on the name Parth Parthus as evocative of the tone of the campaign, and hands his character sheet off to the Referee to review:

Parth Parthus

Fighting Man, 1st Level (Veteran)

Str 16 (+2)

Int 13 (+1)

Wis 8 (-1)

Dex 14 (+1)

Con 10 (0)

Cha 11 (0)

AC 6 (Harness, Dex)

HP 7

+1 to-hit and damage with Melee weapons

Unstoppable (free attack with kill)

Saves: Explosions13, Mentalism15, Energy15, Poison13, Falls12, General14


Longsword (d8 damage, +1 two-handed)

Irradium pistol (d8 damage, 30’ range)

10 bullets

Basic Harness (AC7)

50’ Rope

Grappling hook

Irradium torch

The Referee confirms the math on Carl’s sheet, reviews the other players’ sheets, and the game is ready to begin!

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Design Notes, continued

One of the decisions made early on was for WotRP to be compatible with the various versions of D&D out there. To do this, I thought that using OD&D for the basic groundwork would be the best idea, but at the same time had to take into account all the other great stuff: B/X, AD&D, the "tweaks" made by clones like S&W, etc. Classes immediately became a point of contention with, um, myself.

On one hand, one of the biggest strengths of OD&D and its clone offspring was the limited array of classes available. When all you have to choose from is Fighting Man, Cleric, and Magic User, but what you really want to play is Aragorn, you tend to pick the closest base class and make up the difference via roleplaying - which makes for an unpredictable and fun gaming environment. Sure, Frank's character sheet says Cleric, but what he's really going to do with that is anyone's guess. Kindly Padre? Voodoo Necromancer? Zen Assassin? So I didn't want to lose that strength - being able to pick from a limited pool of classes and shape them how you want through good story telling.

On the other hand, a bigger variety of classes is important to a lot of players, and one of the reasons AD&D is so popular to this day - multiple evocative, richly defined classes that offer players multiple springboards to launch from. The popularity of having that wider selection of PC classes is obvious - a demand that both Labyrinth Lord and Swords & Wizardry have answered by publishing their respective AEC and Complete versions.

As I discussed recently on BtBG, there seems to be a sort of "natural progression" of complexity and options inherent in RPGing. What if I could work that into the system itself? And make sure to work it into the "sweet spot" between low level and high level play? How to get players to explore all the options available to WotRP's "base" classes, like Mentalists, before running with the "fringe" classes, like Psychic Knights? When looked at from all those different perspectives, the solution was fairly simple (which is good, I wanted nothing more complex than OD&D or B/X), while still opening up a nice range of "Advanced" options.

To be continued...

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Design Notes

One of the challenges faced when writing Warriors of the Red Planet was making it, seamlessly I hope, serve a few different purposes as an RPG.

First, it needed to be a fun pickup game. Obviously, most people running vintage fantasy RPGs are running them firmly (some less firmly than others) in the Sword & Sorcery realm. I want WotRP to be something that anyone familiar with the fundamental rules structure of D&D's earliest editions and variants can just grab off their shelf, roll on the Random Adventure Generation table, and run a "one-off" session when ever the mood strikes the group.

Second, it needed to be a sourcebook compatible with what people are already using. Some Refs aren't interested in running a Sword & Planet game at all, but love to drop the odd Banth, radium pistol, or airship into their current game at a whim. I want WotRP to be the book that's constantly sitting under your 1E DMG, Swords & Wizardry rulebook, or Moldvay Basic book, waiting to be pulled out and flipped through when a little extra "something" is needed for the regular weekly Greyhawk game.

Third, it needed to facilitate long-term play for those who do want to run full-scale, balls-to-the-wall, Sword & Planet or Dying Earth style campaigns. I want WotRP to be a book that's meaty enough to constantly be sitting on top of your 1E DMG, etc, with those other books being pulled out and flipped through when a little extra "something" is needed for the regular weekly Techno-Sorcerers of Barsoom game.

To fill all three of those design goals, WotRP needed to be both "Basic" and "Advanced" at the same time! How the f#@! are you supposed to do that? The secret, it turns out, was hiding in the character classes of WotRP themselves...

To be continued.