Monthly Archives: December 2016

New Year. Good Luck.

There are two things I have done every Dec 31st in recent years — a retrospective about the year from my point of view, and a war-report-style description of all the fireworks I am hearing from wherever I am.
This year, I am doing neither.
My voice gets heard. A lot. Way out of proportion with its value, I suspect. And somehow, describing loud celebrations as if they were actual conflict just doesn’t seem funny or clever this year.
Instead, I open up this space for other folks. Comment about your year, if you wish.
But the universal rules of my wall remain. Keep it friendly. No insulting other people’s thoughts, no snarking about anyone who might read this. True public officials are fair game, if relevant to your whole year, but no going after other people on this thread, through either aggression of passive-aggression.
I hope you all have a better 2017 than 2016. Some of you, I hope have a MUCH better year, even while I fear it won’t be so.

Diesel Pulp Allied Troops

Diesel Pulp Allied Infantry
Top, Left to Right: US Light Infantry medic, three US Medium Infantry (anti-armor, close combat, flamethrower, all in unpowered armor), two US  Heavy Infantry (combat support, flamethrower, in powered armor), and one US “Rough House” AT2 Gun Carrier (walker equivalent of an armed jeep)
Bottom, Left to Right: two Allied Special Unit Light Infantry (Pacific Theater, the Yelling Yahoos; one with captured Japanese Death Ray rifle and one with an experimental Power Arm, both with captured Tokubetsu Kōgekitai swords), one Free Corps mercenary (European Theater, the Minuteman Militia) and two Irregulars (All-American Girl, with her Boom Gun and Tomastic Sword; and Sky King with his Jetpack, SpectraGoggles, and Colt 1911a .45).


These are for my ’49 setting I play around with as a hobby. I have shots of kitbashed walkers here and here, and talk more about the technology of the fictional setting here. and have a history of some of that tech here.

The Light Infantry medic is a rebased HeroClix
The Medium Infantry are Dust Tactics troops
The Heavy Infantry are Grindhouse Games APE suits for their Incursion game.
The Gun Carrier is a West Wind Productions Commanche battle suit
The Yahoos are rebased Heroscape.
The Free Corps is a repaint HorrorClix.
All-American Girl is a Heroclix Liberty Belle, with a modded-in gun and sword (and she’ll eventually have a US flag on her chest instead of a bell)
Sky King is a modified Lobster Johnson IndyClix (with the lobster claw removed from his chest, and Jango Fett’s jetpack from WotC’s Star Wars line)


Island of Misfit Magic Items

I kinda want to write an adventure set on the Isle of Misfit Magic Items.

“So you have a 9th level spell as a prerequisite. Oh! Are you a ring of wishes?”

“No!” (sobs) “I’m a ring of foresight. I’m a ring with literally the only 9th level spell no one cares about.”

“Well… at least you’re an intelligent item!”

“Not that intelligent. I can’t spell.”

“But you have a spell in you!”

“Yeah… but it’s ‘Foursight’!”

… Along with the Gem of Climbing, Cloak of Elven Strength, and Rope of Holding.

Seven Virtuous Feats of Charity, No. 3

I continue to look at Seven Virtuous Feats of Charity, given the season calls for virtue more than sin.🙂

Better to Give
You can create a beneficial aura for others at a cost to yourself.
Prerequisites: Charitable, Cha 13.
Benefit: You can create a beneficial aura as a standard action. This causes you to take a -3 penalty to attack rolls, saving throws, the save DCs of your abilities, your armor class, and all skill checks and ability checks. All your allies within 60 feet gain a +2 bonus to one of the following: their attack rolls, their saving throws, their skill and ability checks. each ally gets to pick it’s benefit at the beginning of its turn before taking any other actions. You do not gain these bonuses.

The aura ends at the beginning of your turn unless you take a move action to maintain it for 1 round. The bonuses end immediately when the aura ends, but you continue to take the penalties for 1d4-1 rounds.

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Seven Virtuous Feats of Charity, No. 2

I continue to look at Seven Virtuous Feats of Charity, given the season calls for virtue more than sin. 🙂

Pay It Forward
You can pass the benefits of some abilities to those in greater need.
Prerequisites: Charitable, Cha 13.
Benefit: When you are the target of a beneficial spell or effect from a source other than yourself or your possessions, you may choose to pass the benefit to an ally within 30 feet that could be a legitimate target of the effect (the orignal source need not be in range of the new target, but if the effect only benefits humanoids you could not pass it to a non-humanoid target). You must do this when you first gain the benefit, and it requires a swift or immediate action.
In most cases you must pass the full benefit, but if you are healed (even of ability damage) and receive more healing than is needed to take you to your maximum, you may use this ability to pass the excess to an ally within 30 feet as a swift or immediate action.

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Warrior Bunnies of the Dark Borough

Before today, I never wrote down the rules for the simplest RPG I ever designed.

It was when my father was in rehab for a couple of months, his last effort at getting over his alcohol addiction. While it’s not germane to the story at hand, I’ll note he got sober, and stayed sober for a year or so before he began his long, final slide. I value that time with him very much.

As I recall, the place was called Valley Hope. Families would come in for a week of therapy and counseling toward the end of a patient’s stay. I was early in my freelance career, so I could manage that, as did my mother and (IIRC) my sister.

During a group session we talked about what we did, and I mentioned I was trying to start an RPG-writing career. One of the other people there, who had obviously had a much, much rougher life than I and was early in the rehab process, approached me after group to ask what a roleplaying game was. I explained, and they said they’d love to try that, but obviously we couldn’t because I didn’t have any games with me.

But I wasn’t going to let that stop me.

So I said I could run a game, it’d just be *very* simple. The interested person got another patient and we spent most afternoons playing. They both said the only thing they could imagine being other than themselves were bunnies, and felt convinced there was no way that could be in an rpg.

I mentioned not only Watership Down and Rats of Nimh, but that I had personally seen enormous rabbits in a friend’s huge yard drive off cats and dogs. They loved that idea, but knew nothing about country life.

So, I created a super-quick setting, inspired in large part by Rock N Rule, where household pets survived the death of mankind, and involved into urban societies. They both played bad-ass bunnies in the worse urban section of Pet City, known as the Dark Borough (yes, another bunny reference), who were out to take no shit from anyone.

The rules were simple. I’d establish a situation with a short narrative. Then each player would describe one response in turn, then I’d describe a complication, then we’d repeat until the scene was ended.

We had no dice, so we flipped coins. Everything had a 50% chance of success — tails your action works (they WERE bunnies), heads it doesn’t. They each had a single specialization (for one, it was combat. for the other, it was jumping). For your specialization, you got to flip twice and you succeeded if either was tails.

It’s worth noting that after the first session, a member of the staff watched a game, then asked we only play in the public lounge, which had staff in it 24/7. Given how delicate my two players were, I think that only made sense.

The rules developed a little. The simplest task needed only one success, modest tasks three, complex ones 5. We tracked them with hashmarks. A complication would remove a success (but they outnumbered me two-to-one on actions, so failure was extremely rare if they worked together), or create a weakness (forcing you to flip twice and win both times in order to succeed… but only for one round). Some equipment got found — I remember the Thumper, a grenade launcher, because of the Disney reference, but I think a magic ring and a magic mirror in a makeup compact also showed up, though I don’t remember details. I think the Thumper let one coin flip count as two successes in combat, and the mirror allowed you to open a new scene where you learned something useful if you got three successes… but those details are at best vague and I may be filling in blanks with more recent ideas.

Over seven days we played 8 or 9 times, once during each lunch break and once on some evenings. They both seemed to love roleplaying. I honestly think they needed a way to talk through victories while their own lives were fraught. I meant to stay in touch, but we only exchanged a letter or two while they were in rehab, and nothing after that.

But it was a pretty good campaign. They uncovered a spider mobster conspiracy to convince pets to live near webs, and to eat homeless pets. they beat it, making their dark, grim home just slightly safer. I hope I did more good than harm.

And it showed me that if what a group *wants* is to all work together to have a good time, with no concerns about balance or genre emulation or a lot of more advanced design concerns, nearly anything will work for the rules.

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Warrior Christmas

“So what does Santa do the other 363 days a year?”
“He kills people.”
“Well, he mostly sends Krampus and Père Fouettard for minor wetworks, but for big targets the Kringlenator does the deed himself. Knecht Ruprecht keeps the operation’s books. That naughty list doesn’t whittle itself down you know, and if you were an immortal with perfect knowledge of people’s sins, the ability to access any stronghold, instant transportation, and limitless wealth and resources, what would YOU do with it?”
“Get laid?”
“And Mrs. Claus is a hottie, to be sure. But she can also gut a man with a cookie cutter in 5 seconds flat.”
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Star Wars Spoilers… for Force Awakens

Back when I watched The Force Awakens I noted that I enjoyed it, and that I’d post more thoughts about it when I thought the statute of limitations on spoilers was up.

Now that there’s a NEWER Star Wars movie in theaters, I feel pretty free talking about The Force Awakens without feeling bad if I spoil anything.

That said… spoilers!

Overall I felt this movie had a near-impossible task. It had to get people excited about a whole new generation of Star Wars, from a whole new company. Yes, many fans were… I’ll go with “unimpressed” with the prequels… but they were nevertheless huge financial successes. And they were the definitive Star Wars films to millions of fans who saw them as their introduction to the series — and hated travesties to millions of other fans.

Many of the original actors are still around, and nostalgia creates a strong call to see Leia run a Republic, Solo try to go straight, and Luke train a new order of Jedi. But given those actor’s ages, a new set of adventures really had to introduce new characters.

And, let us not forget, the last new Star Wars film was Revenge of the Sith in 2005. It was a decade old by the time Force Awakens came out, which means the coveted 12-17-year-old crowd were 2 to 7 at the END of the prequel trilogy runs. And that’s just looking at the US market. The size of some overseas film markets grew enormously in this time. The Asia pacific went from $9 billion in 2011 to $14.1 billion just from 2011 to 2015. Many of the worldwide audience you want to draw into a new ongoing series of movies will never have seen the original on the big screen, and may not have seen it at all.

So this movie had to be better than the prequels without denigrating them, give us new characters, give us the original characters, reintroduce the entire Star wars universe to a new audience, and tell a great story. It did some of these things better than others.

For my own take, I loved the new characters. Rey, Finn, Poe, and BB8 were all interesting, great SW characters to me. I even like Kylo Ren, because he is such a winy emo Sith. He’s struggling in a different way than Anakin or Vader ever did, and if Darth maul or Palpatine ever had second thoughts they didn’t make it into the big screen. I am excited to see more of Rey and Finn and their adventures.

I mostly didn’t enjoy the return of existing characters… though the “We’re home!” line choked me up because I am a giant sap, and the love between an adventurers and an old starship is one of my sappiest sap buttons. But Han never felt quite right, Leia wasn’t given much to do, and while Chewie’s grief moved me, it was spoiled by the fact Leia didn’t go to him first when the Falcon returned after Han’s death.

The story itself was workmanlike, which isn’t a compliment when it comes to Star Wars. A lot of the things WITHIN the story I loved, dialog was snappy, combat sequences were awesome, and there was no long, boring podracing equivalent. But a reboot Super Death Star (now with 32% more Death! tm) didn’t interest me, and even lampshading it with Han noting there was always a way to do this didn’t keep it from feeling like a retread.

I FORGAVE the retread parts, because I saw what I felt were efforts to reintroduce this series to a new audience, and I accept that’s a reasonable thing for the first Star Wars movie in a decade to do. And, I loved the dialog, action, and relationships of the rest of the movie. I dislike sill giant cgi monsters getting out of the hold, but adore Rey and Finn having separate, interesting character development arcs. I don’t enjoy R2-D2 being mysteriously “asleep” apparently for years, but I love Luke as the wise but failed elder warrior and teacher.

Yes, a lot of it was watching a reboot of A new Hope. But that story still resonates with me, and I (at least at the moment) don’t think Episode VIII is going to be a reboot of Empire.

Not a perfect film, but one that gave me a lot of good stuff. When I compare that to any of the prequels, I can feel only gratitude and relief. And hope for what is to come. The foundation was laid differently than I would have laid it, but it looks to me to be a strong foundation

And I look forward to seeing what is to be built on it.

At this point, I figure I’ll discuss my thoughts on rogue One sometime in December 2017. 🙂

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Seven Virtuous Feats of Charity, No. 1

So, yeah, I am actually going to delay finishing the Sinful Feats of Sloth…

(Don’t worry, they’ll be back.)

Instead, I’m going to start exploring Virtuous Feats. And since I am giving these away for free, I thought I’d begin with Charity. Which also means I am setting on which Seven Virtues I’m going with –Chastity, Charity, Diligence, Humility, Kindness, Patience, and Temperance.

I’m also up front that these are for virtuous characters, not necessarily virtuous players. They are supposed to give real game mechanical benefits, worthy of spending a feat on, without asking the player to be any more moral than the baselines expected of friends having fun. That may cause some cognitive dissonance, so I’m mentioning it now.

Also, virtuous feats have their own rules, much as sinful feats do.

The Virtuous Feat Type

While virtuous feats are not restricted to good characters (you don’t have to be entirely without virtues in order to be an evil person), and using them is not an inherently good act (overzealous virtue can easily turn toward evil) they do draw on the power of virtue itself. As a result characters who gain power in part from having an evil alignment (such as antipaladins, who must remain chaotic evil) cannot gain or use sinful feats. If such a character loses her alignment and the power that comes with it as a result of an act tied to one of the seven cardinal virtues (Chastity, Charity, Diligence, Humility, Kindness, Patience, and Temperance) the GM may choose to allow the character to swap out any feats relating to the lost power for virtuous feats linked to the appropriate virtue.


When you give, your radiate an aura of assisting others.

Prerequisites: Cha 13.

Benefit: When you are in a state of virtuous charity, you may select one of the following benefits to grant allies within a 30 foot radius: a +1 bonus to AC, a +1 bonus ot all saving throws, or a +1 bonus to opposed skill checks. You never benefit from your own Charitable feat bonuses. You may select what bonus to grant at the beginning of each of your turns.

You enter a state of virtuous charity for 1 round by by aiding another, taking a standard or longer action to grant a bonus to someone else, or using a standard action or longer ability or attack of opportunity to take damage targeted at another character (such as with the In Harm’s Way feat).

If, as a result of charitable giving to NPC institutions that does not benefit you or any of your allies,  you are 15% of more below the typical wealth per level of a character of your class and level for your campaign (standard for PCs if you are a PC, standard for NPCs if an NPC, and as compared to the norm established by your GM if different from the Core Rulebook), you are in a constant state of virtuous charity.

You cannot have more than one benefit from this feat active at a time.

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Updated List of Very Fantasy Words

The most recent update to the Revised, Partial List of Very Fantasy Words!

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