Sunday, July 29, 2012

Using BESM d20 to Build Pathfinder/3.x Classes

Okay, so I've noted earlier that in Pathfinder/3.x, the creation of new character classes is as much art as science.  The existing rules out there don't really provide a proper toolkit for building new classes from scratch.  Given the wide variety of class level abilities which could be included, that is not too surprising.  However, Big Eyes, Small Mouth d20 (BESM d20) had a lot of basic class elements broken down by point values, to which the class abilities could be added with the usual BESM point-buy rules.  With a bit of tinkering, I came up with this Listing of Points for Building Classes by Point Value

Per each +1 to Base Attack Bonus (BAB): +3 CP
    Fighter-type progression (+1 to +20/15/10/5) = 150 CP
    Cleric-type progression (+0 to +15/10/5) = 60 CP
    Wizard-type progression (+0 to +10/5) = 45 CP

Per each +1 to Fort, Ref, or Wil save: +1 CP
    - for a 0 to +6 save progression = 6 CP
    - for a +2 to +12 save progression = 12 CP

Skill gain of:
    2 + Int/level            0.5 per level              = 10 CP
    3 + Int/level            0.75 per level            = 15 CP
    4 + Int/level            1 per level                 = 20 CP
    5 + Int/level            1.25 per level            = 25 CP
    6 + Int/level            1.50 per level            = 30 CP
    7 + Int/level            1.75 per level            = 35 CP
    8 + Int/level            2 per level                 = 40 CP

d4 Hit or Mana die per level             1 per level            = 20 CP
d6 Hit or Mana die per level          1.5 per level            = 30 CP
d8 Hit or Mana die per level             2 per level            = 40 CP
d10 Hit or Mana die per level        2.5 per level            = 50 CP
d12 Hit or Mana die per level           3 per level            = 60 CP

Per +1 of attribute score = 2 CP

Per Feat gained = 3 CP

     My BESM d20 (and later BESM 3rd Edition) campaign used mainly classes and races drawn from Final Fantasy, particularly Final Fantasy Tactics and Final Fantasy Tactics Advance.  So I used these two editions of BESM to build a big set of classes.  The BESM d20 classes were:
Black Mage
Blue Mage
Clockwork Knight
Covener (prestige class)
Dark Mage
Red Mage
Scarlet Paladin
Shadow Knight
White Mage
White Monk

Later on I'll post a couple to show what these classes look like.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Where are all the Pathfinder blogs?

Okay, so I've been looking around more and more for interesting RPG related blogs to follow, particularly with an eye to finding ones related to Pathfinder (my current game system), but finding almost nothing.  The vast majority seem to fall into three main categories:

- Diehard D&D 4E fandom
- Diehard "old school rules" (OSR) D&D hobbyists
- generic/homebrew offerings

So where are all the Pathfinder blogs?  From what I've been reading Pathfinder is neck-and-neck with 4E (if not slightly in the lead) for sales.  Logically, then, there should be roughly as many Pathfinder oriented blogs out there as 4E blogs.   Granted the 4E community probably feels somewhat embattled, caught in a crossfire from the Pathfinder fans one the one side and the OSR otaku on the other.  Thus they may feel more of a need to grab the 4E banner and wave it from the ramparts to keep up morale.  And the OSR fanboys/fangirls are fired up by the thrill of particpating in a semi-undergound movement to overthrow the entrenched power that be.  But I would expect that the huge wave of enthusiasm for Pathfinder would produce another set of blogsters eager to share their joys and ideas with the world.  Are they all just hanging out on the Paizo message boards?  Does anyone have a list of Pathfinder-oriented (or at least Pathfinder-friendly) blogs available?

That said, I have actually started to question whether I want to use Pathfinder/3.x as my system of choice.  I love the detail, love the classes, love the massive quantity of support materials, etc.  However, I find that nowadays my brain is really too full to properly absorb all the full crunchy bits necessary to master the system.  Hence my recent interest in Old School Hack and an on-going (or should I say, neverending) search for the perfect set of game rules.  Recent reviews of Marvel Heroic Roleplaying mention some cool interactive GM--player mechanics, but I'd have to adapt them to swords and sorcery gaming.

Ice Road Convoy, Chapter 2

Ice Road Convoy, Chapter 2

    I gripped the handles of the heavy bolter, both hands frozen in the thin leather gloves which all the 'victs wore here.  The huge truck bumped and rattled across the snow-covered landscape.  The sound of the near-constant wind competed with the low growl of the truck's engine.  The convoy was passing through a relatively flat, wide frozen river bed with low bluffs about a hundred meters to either side.  The commissar had called these bits of land between the frozen lakes "portages".  However, most of the run would be on the icy surface of the many  wide lakes left here by a massive planetary bombardment ages ago.  There was no danger of falling through the ice here, but a higher chance of ambush since the terrain of the portages offered concealment and cover for attackers.  There were only two vehicles after mine in the convoy: another tractor-trailer loaded with food and a standard Chimaera armored personnel carrier covering the rear.  My own truck had a load of light ammunition: grenades, bolter shells, and the like.  The truck ahead was a real death trap: a tanker loaded with 30,000 litres of promethium fuel.  I felt oddly relieved to be on a truck with ammunition over one with highly explosive fuel, even if it meant that I had to man the open gun cupola on the back of the trailer.
    The danger was perhaps worth it.  The commissar had explained before they set out that this was no ordinary penal unit.  The sector governor had selected certain 'victs to form a new type of unit called a Penitant Legion.  That explained why the unit wasn't a pack of vicious murdering bastard types--well, not all of them anyway.  Of course the commissar had immediately taken to mocking them by calling every one "penny" instead of " 'vict".  It also helped explain why there was an old granny sitting in the cab of the truck.  I'd seen the ganger tattoos on her arms and wondered how she'd survived more than a minute in dog-eat-dog world of the hive gangers.  Apparently she'd gotten them to show support for a favorite grandson who'd gone ganger.  She refused to rat him out to the Arbites and ended up here.  Unlike penal legions, penitant legionaries could be released into a normal Imperial Guard unit after a number of missions or years of suitably arduous and meritorious service.  In this case it would be just 20 supply runs out and back--unless they were lying.
    The truck slowed as it headed up a slight rise and I could hear gears grinding.  Noran, the driver began whining again about how unfair it was that he had to do a job he wasn't properly qualified.  "I don't see how I can be expected to manage without any training and no one here to help me!", Noran went on in his obnoxious nasal tone.  Word was Noran had been some sort of upper level Adminstrorum functionary who'd gotten himself accustomed to far too many unofficial perks.  He seemed to think he was entitled to perks even in the barracks--until the other 'victs finally decided he was entitled to a beating in the shower.  That hadn't brought down his inflated sense of importance much, however.  Noran's voice continued to crackle from the intervox into the crew's headsets.  Irritated, I let go of one of the weapon grips and glared back uselessly over my shoulder at the tractor cab.  The line of trucks at the front of the convoy was visible ahead as bulky gray shapes in clouds of snow kicked up as they passed.  The portage would eventually end in another flat expanse of ice-covered lake.  I looked up at the sky, blue with only a few wisps of cloud.  Then another wisp caught my eye, a lazy spiral looping down from the bluff on the right.  Fear gripped my chest and I yelled out "Grenade!", recognizing too late the trail of a grenade launcher round arcing down into the tanker ahead of us.
    The prometheum went up in a massive blast of orange and black.  The poor bastard in the gun cupola on the end was blown out and landed in the convoy tracks, clothes aflame.  Noran slammed on the brakes and the tractor-trailer immediately jack-knifed.  I stared in horror for a moment as the trailer swung to the right and started to slide sideways towards the blazing inferno of spilled fuel: tons of ammunition headed for a fire plenty big enough to set the whole damned planet off.  As the trailer leaned precariously and bumped and shuddered over the rough ground I crouched in the cupola and braced for whatever might come.  After several moments of pure terror, the trailer slowed to a stop and settled upright.  I peered over the side, both hands gripping the metal rail.  The burning tanker was little more than 25 meters away.  I saw the burning man, now a blackened, smoking figure outlined against the snow, roll slowly over onto one side.  "Stop, drop, and roll", I mouthed to myself.   They'd taught us all that back in school for what to do if your clothes caught on fire.  I wondered if the victim was trying to roll or just struggling in agony.  I felt a flash of anger at Noran's idiotic panic braking that could have killed everyone aboard.  I was about to get out and help the smoldering casualty when a series of loud noises brought my attention back to the rear of the convoy.
    Scattered groups of orks were running down from their hiding places on the bluff on the right flank of the convoy.  They were waving huge crude blades and firing an assortment of loud, oversized firearms.  The Chimaera had opened up on them, as had the gunners on the truck behind ours.  A group of half a dozen orks were headed straight for my truck.  I grabbed the firing grips and dragged the big weapon around to open fire.  I could only move the heavy bolter with difficulty but brought it to bear and pressed the firing lever.  A stream of shells flew over the heads of the charging orks and tore up the bluff behind them.  I struggled to aim and move the bulky weapon to keep it trained on them--years of putting paintbrush to canvas hadn't really prepared me for this.  It was only the second time I'd ever fired it.  The commissar had only allowed a single training session--she didn't want anyone "wasting ammunition" before the mission.  Nevertheless, by keeping the firing level down and correcting my aim I brought down one, then two more together, and then a third and a fourth.  I had just about brought the line of tracers down onto the last one when the firing abruptly stopped.  A piece of metal spat out of the side of the heavy bolter with a loud clang--the end-of-belt piece.  Surprised, I looked wildly around for another ammo belt.  The ork was only 20 meters away, roaring alien gibberish as he rushed in with a huge rusty cleaver.
    Fear rising in my chest, I grabbed another belt of shells, then dropped it and pulled out the small stub pistol I'd been issued as a side arm.  I was about to open fire at the huge monstrosity, when someone off to the left shouted and a lasrifle bolt flashed by, nicking the ork on the arm.  It roared with pain and, enraged, changed direction and headed towards the source of the bolt.  I leaned over the side of the cupola and began firing.  Some shots went wide, others hit.  I was shocked at how small the impacts looked on the creature's huge frame.  Another laser bolt, then another came from up near the cab, one hitting the ork in the abdomen.  I kept firing, getting it several times on its bare, scarred head.  Finally, the brutish alien stumbled and fell to its knees.  Letting out a low growl it collapsed face down on the frozen dirt.
    "It's stuck!  I can't get this thing to move.  How can anyone of my background and breeding be expected to understand this sort of mechanical nonsense!"  Noran bleated petulantly over the intervox, clearly out of his depth.  That was it; I'd had it with the useless, whining weasel.  First he almost kills everyone jack-knifing the truck and now he's just sitting there while we're under attack.  I knocked the earphones off his head and scrambled down the metal rungs to the ground.  Landing heavily, I twisted my ankle but started past the ork carcass towards the cab.
    Mordaur was standing there by the open door of the tractor cab with a lasrifle in his hands.  He looked tired, as he always did.  His large frame looked even bigger in the military greatcoat he'd found somewhere.  His arms hung down slackly as though weighed down by the weight of the rifle.  As I drew nearer I saw that he was pale under his dark complexion, pale with fear, although he otherwise appeared calm.  "Are you okay?", I shouted.  He turned his head slowly and said "It'll be all right."  He said that a lot, half to himself, as though he was quietly reassuring himself about something.
    I clambered up the side of the armored cab and lunged through the open door.  Nanny Tauriston sat in the passenger seat with a large toolbox on her lap.  She had been assigned as mechanic on the truck even though she'd probably never turned a bolt in her life.  Typical penal battalion personnel management.  Noran had started in demanding help from another truck in his typical whining petulant way.  I grabbed the microphone and said "Give me that you idiot!"  Surprised and outraged he clung to it and we struggled for a moment before I was able to wrench it from his grasp.  "Give it back!" he demanded.  I began hitting him with it, shouting "Shut up!  Shut up!  Shut up!" in time with the blows.  The plastic microphone casing cracked in my hand as Noran cowered in his seat shielding himself from my frenzy.  I felt a pair of large hands on my shoulders.  "It'll be all right" said a familiar voice, "It'll be all right, you'll see".  The rage drained and I dropped the busted microphone.  "Just get the truck moving before the damned orks kill us all" I said, and headed back to the cupola.
    I had only gone a few steps, feet crunching in the snow, when I remembered the 'vict thrown from the back of the tanker.  I ran over to the prostrate form which still smoked slightly.  The face was charred and bloody, but I heard a low moan as I turned the body over.  The bulky winter clothing had protected most of the body, the only obvious burns being on the exposed facial areas.  Despite the damage from the flames I thought I recognized Dorra, from one of the other platoons.  A plump woman of moderate height, 30-ish, with very short dark hair.  A bit coarse of manner I'd thought, but not obviously evil or criminal.  I dragged her back to our truck and we laid her on the wide crew seat at the back of the cab.  Medical attention would have to wait, but at least she was safe now from the cold and any surviving attackers.
     I awkwardly reloaded the heavy bolter as Noran maneuvered the truck and got us moving.   The truck and Chimaera behind us had already moved on past while we dealt with our situation, leaving us last in line now.  As we moved out, I looked back and watched as the burned out tanker and scattering of corpses receded into the distance.  It wasn't even the end of the first day of the run yet.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Ice Road F*ckers (or Ice Road 40,000 Meets Ice Road Truckers))

    Okay, so a while back I read a bunch of Warhammer 40,000 fiction.  I do love a lot of things about the WH40K universe as a sci-fi setting, but in many ways it's not very conducive to roleplay gaming--well, not very conducive to the sort of games I like to run.  Anyway, about that time I also started watching the reality TV show "Ice Road Truckers".  For those of you who have not watched this show, it's about commercial big-rig truck drivers driving up in Alaska (and Canada, too, I think) during the winter.  The name refers to the fact that during the winter up in Alaska they plough roads which go right across frozen lakes.  Apparently there are crews out ploughing the snow from the lakes and regular highways and putting out markers.  As one might expect driving across a frozen lake in a huge, heavily laden truck entails a not insignificant level of risk.  A third thing floating about in my brain at the time was news items about hazardous supply truck runs in Iraq and Afghanistan.  The trucks are sometimes in escorted convoys and sometimes not.  They run the risk of ambush, roadside bombs, mines, etc.

     Then, suddenly my brain put the three together: what about an RPG set in the WH40K universe (or a facsimile thereof) where the PCs are truck drivers in a frozen wilderness in a far off war zone?  And, to make it a bit more interesting, the characters are members of a penal battalion.  As members of such a unit they are quite expendable and the conditions in the unit will be brutal.  Each character will have a back story, some guilty as charged, some framed, and some innocents swept up in the Imperial net.

     Inspired, I then did up some fiction to serve as an introduction which I could hand to the players to get them into the campaign, since this it a fairly unique setting:


    The icy wind cut through the thin jungle fatigue pants like razor.  The bastards were doing roll call twice a day now out here on the main parade ground, once at dawn and once at nightfall, no matter how damned cold it was.  The Adeptus Arbites lieutenant and his men didn't care, since they were dressed for the cold.  The inmates of Penal Battalion 3749 lined up in front of the Arbites leader wore only thin work coats and gloves over the jungle uniform of the planet where the battalion had been formed.  The 3749th, the "Dead Enders", had gone through a lot of inmates in the last couple years before arriving here two weeks ago.  The march from the spaceport through the mountains to get to this frozen armpit had killed off at least ten percent of the unit.  Too bad the commissar hadn't been one of them.  Of course, it would take more than an a little chilly weather and a stroll in the mountains to kill a commissar.  Especially a tough bitch like this one.  Everyone was sure she was part ogryn--even steroids couldn't bulk a normal woman up like that.  The livid facial scars just heightened the effect.

    They were told on arrival that they would be on convoy duty, but nothing else.  The 'victs were immediately suspicious.  The Imperium never puts penal units on easy duty like that.  The job of a convict battalion is to die like bastards for the Emperor to atone for their transgressions.  There had to be something else going on here.  Still, there didn't seem to be much else here but supply warehouses and heavy trucks, most with armor plates and gun mounts.  At the beginning of the week the half-orks in the unit rioted and broke into the warehouses looking for something serious to drink.  The Adeptus Arbites had rolled up in APCs and wiped them out with heavy flamers.  The remains of the one prefab barracks were still a charred ruin and the whole place smelled like roast ork.  Several "ringleaders" were grabbed at random and hung naked above the main gate to die.  Then the twice-daily roll calls had begun.

    Commissar Arletta Nourissel smiled to herself as she strolled in front of the shivering 'vict rankers as the roll was called.  The cold would give them something to complain about and help squelch any ideas about trying to escape.  The minimal cold-weather gear they'd been issued would be enough for garrison and convoy duty but not enough for deserting into the wilderness.  Besides, falling unconscious in the cold would be too easy a death for this scum.  Heretics, traitors, minor mutants, half-orks, demi-humans, dissidents, insubordinates, and common criminals were the stock in trade of a penal battalion.  And this battalion was no different.  She flexed her considerable arm muscles and thought of the many enjoyable sessions of corporal punishment which would undoubtedly be required in the coming months.

    The supply base was surrounded by a standard imperial three-meter high ferrocrete wall with watch towers and two gates.  Not a serious military fortification but enough to keep lightly armed raiders out and, more importantly, any mutineers in.  The Adeptus Arbites troops and the commissar lived in the small fortified headquarters blockhouse by the main gate and garrisoned the watch towers.  There were several large well-built warehouses, rows of cheap prefab barracks, and the motor pool parking lots and workshops.  A power plant, chow hall, and a couple other buildings rounded out the facility.

    They'd seen the previous garrison unit drive past them during the march up from the spaceport.  A line of Basilisk APCs loaded with troops inside and piled on top rolled by during a light snow shower.  The vehicles were battered and looked heavily used.  The troops on them, Imperial Guard regular infantry, looked battered and heavily used as well.  They slumped on the roofs of the vehicles, sunken eyes staring out of gaunt faces. There weren't many with bandages or signs of wounds in evidence amongst them, but imperial battlefield medicine was crude and a lack of recovering patients wouldn't be unusual.  Still, they'd seen some sort of rough duty up here for sure.

    "All right you scum!"  The roll call was over and the Arbites lieutenant was shouting something else at them.  The commissar was going to address them--maybe this was the bad news they'd been waiting for about the mission here.  Commissar Nourissel strolled arrogantly up onto the packing case which served as a makeshift platform to address the formation.  "Ten-hut!" commanded one of the battalion's lieutenants.  The formation snapped to attention, standing as stiff as their shivering bodies would allow.  A beastman near the front, suffering severe chills since the issue coats wouldn't fit his huge frame, let a bleat of misery escape his lips and got a truncheon up the side of his face.  "Silence you swine!" barked another lieutenant; sounded like Lieutenant Promethos.  The battalion's number one brown-noser had started getting on the commissar's good side early...

Monday, July 16, 2012

BESM 40K! An Alternate Approach to a Warhammer 40K RPG

     Okay, so a few years ago I pre-ordered Big Eyes, Small Mouth (BESM) 3rd Edition from Guardians of Order.  Almost immediately after that GoO announced that it was going bankrupt (totally a coincidence?).  Happily, the books were already ordered from the printers and White Wolf took over the rights.  After receiving both the printed and pdf versions I happily dived in and began enjoying this rather nice rules-light system.  The only problem I have with it is that it is a point-buy toolbox.  That's fine if you're running a game in a relatively modern period, but for other periods it's time to hit the design studio--hard.
     Now, I wanted to run some Warhammer 40,000 scenarios for my gamers but didn't like what I'd seen from Games Workshop (plus their reputation for over-priced merchandise).  So, I whipped out BESM and started designing away.  I decided that I would add a few of my own ideas to the basic WH40K world.  It would be "BESM 40K" instead.  Below is a class template for the Sisters of Battle Valkyrie (cool armored battle chicks with jump packs to enable maximum mayhem):

BESM40K Valkyrie Sister (Adeptes Sororitas)

Cost = 182 CP (106 without equipment)

ACV = 6 (7 ranged)
DCV = 6 (7 vs ranged)
HP =  55 (shock = 11; 21 in armor)
EP = 65

Stat Modifiers:
Body:    +1            (Body = 5)                                                              +10
Mind:    -            (Mind = 4)                                                                     -
Soul:    +2            (Soul = 6)                                                                  +20

Attributes                                 Notes                                                      CP
Attack Combat Mastery 1       +1 to ACV on all attacks                        +10
Aura of Inspiration 1                comrades get +1 on will saves                  +2
Combat Technique 2                Diving Attack, Two Weapons                   +4
Defense Combat Mastery 1    +1 to DCV vs. all attacks                         +10
Divine Relationship 2                                                                                +4
Energy Bonus 3                      +15 EP                                                      +6
Exorcism 2                             +2 to Exorcism rolls                                    +4
Healing 1                                 Heal 10 HP                                               +4
Ranged Attack (pistol) 3          +3 to all ranged attacks                              +9
Ranged Defense 3                   +3 to defense rolls vs. ranged                     +9
Massive Damage (pistols) 1    +1 damage multiplier with handgun shots     +4
Melee Attack (chainsword) 3    +3 to chainsword attacks                          +9
Melee Defense (chainsword) 3   +3 defending with chainsword                  +9
Mind Shield 2                          +2 to mental/psychic defense rolls              +4
Organizational Ties 2               Member of a Valkyrie Order                        +4
Sixth Sense 2                          +2 to rolls to sense Chaos energy nearby    +4
Special Movement (cat-like)                                                                     +2
Special Movement (wall bounce)                                                              +2
Telepathy 1                            Minor: only with other Valkyries                 +2

Acrobatics 4                                                                                           +8
Military Sciences 1                                                                                  +2
Occult 2                                                                                                  +4

Marked 2                              full-body Valkyrie cult tattoos                     -2
Recurring Nightmares            frequent, moderate effect on lifestyle           -4

Power Armor                       (Sororitas Light Power Armor)               +56 CP
Jump Pack                          (Jump 4/item; 100m jumps                        +4
Bolt Pistols (2)                                                                                    +10
Chainsword                                                                                         +6

BTW, if you're not familiar with the Sisters of Battle (Adeptes Sororitas) then just go to YouTube and search on "sisters of battle tribute" for some cool videos.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Way Two Classy

Okay, so I was just over at the Gaming As Women blog ( and saw an ad for a Kickstarter project about a game where you play a mastermind and a minion seeking to take over the world.  In a typical RPG then, you'd be playing two characters.  Personally, I don't like playing more than one entity at a time in RPGs.  I avoid classes which have an animal companion, etc.  It's not that I don't like companions/hirelings/apprentices/etc., it's that I find it too distracting.  The Kickstarter ad reminded me that a while back I came across a blog post somewhere (don't remember where, sorry) about a dragonrider campaign.  In the campaign each player would roll up a rider (their main PC) but also play the dragon of one of the other players.  Thus each dragon would have it's own distinct personality and you'd have great interlocking roleplay going on between the riders, dragons, and players.  I love that concept!

     Then I thought, hey, you could easily extend that concept to lots of other types of game:
Wizards + apprentices
Knights + squires
Masterminds + minions
Superheros +  sidekicks
Druids + animal companions
Mecha Pilots + intelligent mechs (a sci-fi take on the dragonrider concept)