Monthly Archives: August 2020

Marvel Movie Pitch: DOOM

Marvel Movie Pitch

DOOM

Victor Von Doom is a young rebel fighting against The Baron, a petty warlord who rules the small nation of Latveria. Victor is not a hero, but a rebel leader fighting a war, and he knows it. He uses sorcery learned from his parents and science he gleans from constantly reading tech specs from AIM, Stark Industries, and Roxxon.

(Get Roma writers, actors, and directors to include good Roma depiction and representation as one of the groups within Latveria)

Victor deposes the Baron, and steps back from being in charge afterward to allow the people of Latveria to create a democracy. Now free from war, and somethign of an international celebrity for his fight for freedom, he receives a scholarship to Empire State University in New York. Here he meets Reed Richards, who becomes his natural rival, and Ben Grimm, who thinks Victor is a bully and war criminal.

Reed is working to build a rocket to examine cosmic rays well beyond the atmosphere. Victor is building a machine to allow him to speak with the dead, in the hopes of using it to help Latvarians recover from war losses. Each sees a flaw in the design of the other, and neither believes THEIR calculations are wrong.

Afraid Victor is the one who is right, Ben Grimm sabotages the Doom Projector, expecting it to just short circuit. Instead it explodes, badly damaging Victor’s face. Victor is expelled from the school and, no longer a student, his visa to stay in the U.S. is pulled. (Yes, I get why some people hate this. But Ben sabotaging Victor is, currently, comics canon. If we want to move away from that, some OTHERstudent could sabotage him.)

Angry and scarred, Victor goes to Tibet to find the Ancient One, who he has heard can heal him. He fails to find her, collapsing on a mountainside, and is rescued by a secretive group of sages who strive to blend magic and technology, but wish to do so without the rest of the world finding out. Victor joins their order, and becomes a master of this technomancy. He begins working on a suit of armor he claims will be the “mystic equivalent of Iron Man,” thought the process takes a long time and the armor takes days to cool. The sages, impressed by his acumen, grant him the doctorate degree he was denied by ESU.

News arrives that suggests Latveria is collapsing into near civil war, unable to cover its international debts and having no institutions or traditions to support building a democracy. (In the background, another news piece suggest Reed Richards is lost in space with friends during an unauthorized spaceflight.) Victor anonymously begins a grassroots movement over the internet and via astral projection to bring peace to Latveria.

His efforts are stymied by Prince Rudolf, who claims to be the rightful monarch of Latveria, and who controls the sorcerous Mephistopheles Guard. In a techno-crystal ball conversation between the two, Victor warns Rudolf he will not allow some faker to take over the country. Rudolf warns Victor he is not as safely secluded as he thinks.

Then the Mephistopheles Guard attacks the Tibetan sages, their sorcery and modern weapons firing magic bullets too much for the sages’ defenses. Victor rushes to put on his technomagic armor to save the sages… but the last piece, the control system mask, has not yet cooled. Gritting his teeth, Victor puts it on anyway, and we hear searing and smoke, but no cry of pain.

Victor defeats the remaining attackers, but nearly all the sages are dead. The few that remain thank Victor for saving them, and pledge their loyalty to him.

Victor goes to Latveria, where he blasts his way into the Royal palace, and confronts Rudolf. Rudolf promises that defeating him is pointless, his diabolical master will just recruit another pawn to take control of the country.

“Let them come.” says Victor. “And they, too, can meet their Doom.”

Von Doom sits on the throne. He orders Rudolf’s political prisoners released. They come to the throne room, and suggest Von Doom should step down and let them establish an autonomous collective. The politicos begin to should louder and louder, until Von Doom silences them.

They have clearly failed Latveria, Von Doom notes. He shall not. He will modernize, protect, and get to the root of who was behind Rudolf and possibly the baron’s, supernatural plots.

And no-one, notes Doctor Doom, shall stop me.

Credits.

End Credit Scene. We see the last few seconds of Doctor Doom’s taking over speech on a TV, which is surrounded in Egyptian iconography. There’s a date listed (day the movie is released).

There are two voices.

“So, we jump to before this moment, and stop him?”

“No, too risky, We’ll have to travel to just after this, and see if we con convince him to see things out way.”

First Look – Psionics for Starfinder

I have begun to put serious thought into what Psiconics would look like in Starfinder. There’s a wonderful set of PF1-compatible psionics rules, and those would obviously be the place to start, but how much change would be needed?

As a thought experiment (see what I did there?!), I grabbed a 0-level psionic ability, “conceal thoughts”

Here’s the PF1-compatible version:

Conceal Thoughts
Discipline telepathy [mind-affecting]
Level cryptic 0, dread 0/1, gifted blade 1, marksman 0, psion/wilder 0, psychic warrior 0, tactician 0
Display Mental
Manifesting Time 1 standard action
Range Close (25 ft. + 5 ft./2 levels)
Target One willing creature
Duration 1 hour/level
Saving Throw Will negates (harmless); Power Resistance Yes (harmless)
Power Points psionic focus or 1

You protect the subject’s thoughts from analysis. While the duration lasts, the subject gains a +10 circumstance bonus on Bluff checks against those attempting to discern its true intentions with Sense Motive. It also gains a +4 bonus on its saving throw against any power or spell used to read its mind (such as read thoughts or mind probe).

Starfinder psionic warmind

(Art by grandfailure)

Now, what do we need to do to Starfinderize it?

Well, we’d have to decide what classes got it, which means we’d have to decide what psionic classes we wanted. Obviously the easiest thing to do would be just port all the PF1 psionic classes to Starfinder… but that’s not necessarily the best way for them to feel like they belong in the game. Just as a soldier isn’t *just* a space fighter, we’d want to do more than simply say “space psychic warrior” and “space psion.”

I’d want, at minimum, a pure power-of-the-mind class, a hybrid combat-class, a psionics-and-computers/machines class, and a pew-pew-psionic-blaster. For the moment we’ll call those (in order) cogitator, warmind, psiborg, and vrilokinetic. Those names may not stick, heck the concepts may no stick, but it gives us a starting point to work with.

We’ll use the core Starfinder spell rules as the basis for how psionics works, so we can dispense with things like Display. I know a lot of people like having psionic disciplines be separate from magic schools… but Starfinder is supposed to be less complex than PF1, so let’s just convert everything back to schools. I think we can keep manifesting time, but power resistance should go back to being spell resistance.

Power points is tricky. While I might want to change it in the long run, right now I am going to leave it alone. After that, it’s just a matter of tweaking rules language and balancing for Starfinder’s math assumptions.

Conceal Thoughts
Classes Cogitator 0, Warmind 0, psiborg 0
School abjuration
Manifesting Time 1 standard action
Range Close (25 ft. + 5 ft./2 levels)
Targets One willing creature
Duration 1 hour
Saving Throw Will negates (harmless); Spell Resistance Yes (harmless)
Power Points psionic focus or 1

You protect the subject’s thoughts from analysis. While the duration lasts, the subject gains a +4 circumstance bonus on Bluff checks made to oppose Sense Motive checks. It also gains a +2 bonus on saving throws against mind-affecting divination spells.

Not earth-shattering, but it’s a start for what would be a very, very long process.

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Cephalephants for Starfinder

So, the amazing Jacob Blackmon (support his Patreon!) illustrated a cephalopod – elephant creature, and I was so taken with it I knew I had to write it up for Starfinder. The flavor text below is geared around the really Wild West setting, but you could equally well use it as a mutation in a GammeFinder game, or just a weird creature for a typical Starfinder science-fantasy campaign.

RWW Cephlephant

Cephalephants are native to the shores of the Kingdom of Orungu, on the western equatorial coast of Africa. They are amphibious, able to breath both air and water, and powerful swimmers. They mate for life, and give birth in the water, with young cephalephants not bale to move onto land until they are 7-8 weeks old.

The Myènè speaking people of Orungu accept cephalephants as sapient equals, and local law has always given them right-of-way through Orungu lands and waters, as long as they do not do significant damage to an area. However, as the tentacled pachyderms are not tool-users and depend on telepathy and memory-ivory to communicate and pass down their culture, many other nations see them as no more intelligent than a typical dog or camel. There are only two places they are commonly found outside of Orungu — Germany (where a expedition herd migrated to petition for inclusion in the Paderborn Edicts, but arrived decades too late and are now waiting for the 1896 council), and Montana, U.S. (where a small herd has maintained itself while searching for some mammoth-related item they consider to be of great importance.

While cephalephants are as sapient as typical humanoids, they are also insular and slow to trust. When they are threatened or attacked, or those they think of as allies of the herd are, they are quick to respond with overwhelming force (especially bulls). The long-term safety and security of the herd–often as defined by its matrons and young–are considered much more important than the life of a single member.

Cephalephants eschew tool use not out of stupidity, but because their own tool-making is limited by a nomadic lifestyle that includes spending a great deal of time in water, and a focus on training as mystics. Most cephalephants prefer to learn magic that augments their daily needs, rather than become proficient with objects.

CEPHALEPHANT
Cephalephant     CR 6
XP 2,400
N Huge magical beast (aquatic)
Init +2; Senses darkvision 60 ft., low-light vision; Perception +13

DEFENSE              HP 90
EAC 18; KAC 20
Fort +10; Ref +10; Will +5
Defensive Abilities Camouflage

OFFENSE
Speed 50 ft., swim 20 ft.
Melee gore +13 (3d4+13 P, critical bleed 1d6)
tentacle +15 (1d8+13 B, grab)
Space 15 ft.; Reach 10 ft. (20 ft., tentacle)
Offensive Abilities Ink cloud (DC 14)

STATISTICS
Str +5; Dex +2; Con +3; Int +1; Wis +2; Cha +1
Skills Athletics +13 (+21 when swimming), Profession +13, Stealth +22, Survival +13
Other Abilities amphibious

SPECIAL ABILITIES
Camouflage (Ex) A cephalephant can change its exterior to match the coloration of its surroundings. This allows it to hide even when they do not have cover or concealment.
Ink Cloud (Ex) A cephalephant can create a 20-foot radius cloud of ink that works in air or underwater. this acts as a smoke grenade (DC 14). All cephalephants are immune to a cephalephant’s ink cloud.

ECOLOGY
Environment temperate coasts
Organization solitary, pair, family (3-5), or herd (6-30)

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Second Really Wild West Session — After-Action Report (Part Two)

After the first Really Wild West: Doomstone game session After-Action Report, and its Part Two follow-up, numerous people indicated they were excited to keep learning about the campaign as I run it. So, it’s two weeks later, I’ve run another session, and adapted notes taken by my wife Lj (who is playing the fenrin operative bounty hunter named “Sawyer”) as a quick report.

We did Part One yesterday. Here’s Part two. If you don’t recognize a reference, it may (or may not) be in a previous session, or at the updated campaign notes page.

RWW Jerico Pistol

Still Day 4

After recuperating from the fight with monstrous Jerusalem Bugs, the PCs come to a fork in the road. One path leads to the Circle Axe Ranch, the other to the Vicious Hippogriff. There are five people on horses hanging out there, in the middle of the road.

  • When they get close enough, the PCs can see they are cowpokes, the one covered weapons and collar that covers his face, stopping the PCs. They won’t let the PCs pass. Nor will they tell us who they work for (just insisting it’s “the Ranch” without saying which one.)
  • The PCs move away to talk about our options. They glean some information about the cowpoke’s leader. -James “Burning Jack” Byrne,  a gun-for-hire. Wears fire-retardant gear and then covers himself in flammable material. Also, carries dynamite.
  • Burning Jack is clearly crazy.
  • PCs decide to go around, trusting their map and Brone Mallory the half-orc cartographmancer to get them through the badlands. T’ll come back later.

The map indicates that along the route to get to the Circle Axe while avoiding the trail there is–in the middle of nowhere, with no trail or nearby town or even apparent water sources–an inn the PCs can stay at called Tombspider Inn. Skill checks tell the PCs that a Tombspider is spider-based flesh golem construct with built in melee weapons for legs.

  • On the way there they find a ridge that has collapsed about  2 miles shorter than it should be accordign to the otherwise VERY recent and accurate map. Earthquake?

Tombspider Inn

The Inn is veru large and well-maintained… but tumbleweeds blow by right in front of it.

  • Kobold greets us at the door. Seems confused as to why we are here. Says he’s never actually had a customer. His name is Mr. Scrapgnaw.
  • Apparently, this inn was built so that people can fight “the Tombspider” when it returns. It’s been 110 years since the last appearance. Ulysses S. Abernathy was the last, and only, other name in the log book. This is the name of an engineer whose name is a brand of thingamabobs (UPBs) and who created the “phantom pocketwatch” spell. He also built this Inn, and corresponds by mail once every quarter or so.
  • Rooms are free since the PCs are on a quest. Tinned food. Room-temp drinks. Will take awhile to heat up the water for baths.
  • We all partake in the dark gray liquid from a keg marked with a dead dog. Tastes like rum and coke. Not bad!
  • Mr. Scrapgnaw says there’s not been an earthquake per se. Instead, he’s had wonky feelings over several nights recently. He thought it was just tommy-knockers.
  • Scrapgnaw shows the PCs where the Tombspider will supposedly appear in 1936. It’s down below the Inn in a cavern.
  • A rock covered in blood shows the symbol of the spider, but with guns for legs instead of blades.
  • Each Inn room is set up for many people, weapons, wash tubs, curtains, radiators, and gas lamps.
  • We forget to set watches and just enjoy the sleep and the fluffy beds.

Day 05

  • Breakfast: strong coffee, strong tea, cookies.
  • A few Pcs mention they now plan to retire here.

The PCs arrive at the Circle Axe Ranch

  • Sprawling fenced compound.
  • PCs stop at the gate where there is a tall, lanky elf woman. Waterlily.
  • She gets “Bo-hoss” a large ogre to take her post. He sports a rock bandoleer. (A broad leather strap with pockets for 8-10-inch smooth rocks perfect for him to throw)
  • Waterlily takes us to Forman Dwargus Hardfist
    • Hardfist carries a hand cannon (1-shot, 8-gauge shotgun pistol)
    • Has a complex timepiece with multiple functions
  • His family helped establish the ranch, and it was Hardfist’s mother who found the circle-axe the ranch is named for. She claimed it was an old Nordic relic, perhaps tied to the Hardfist family members who helped Leif Erikson explore North America.
  • As a stakeholder, he gets a cut of each Roundup. For the past three years, each time his cattle are separated out they, and not anyone else’s, keep getting eaten by a manticore. No one else ever sees it. If Hardfist can get one more good sale of his share of a roundup, he plans to retire.
  • It’s not the ranch owner’s family doing it.
  • Doesn’t seem to be a curse.
  • This all seems to have started when Felspark, the East Hudson Fur Trading Company representative, arrived as a guest at the Vicious Hippogriff ranch, which is also when relations between the two ranches went bad.
  • Not an illusion.
  • The fighter/mystic, who can both speak to animals and cast grave words, speaks with the skull 0.o
    • PCs hear scared moos from the skull
    • The fighter/mystic hears “Ow! Danger! Danger to the herd! I die.”
  • The skull shows signs of poison. The fenrin;s scent ability allows her to determine the poison is the same as that used by the serpentfolk on the train.

What PCs want to know

  • When is the next cattle round up? (Anytime — it’s been delayed until hardfist could get some help)
  • Where could the serpentfolk and a manticore be hiding?
  • What’re the forces that link the serpentfolk, manticore, and East Hudson Fur Trading Company together after? Water rights aren’t enough for this much trouble.
    • Other ranch may want the water, so they let the manticore folk use the land.
    • Venom King … what’s he after?
    • What have the tripods awoken? Did the black gas seep down and wake something up?
    • What if they’re headed to the hollow world?
    • And the Trading Co would have a monopoly on the passage to the hollow world from the USA.
  • Hardfist is convinced none of his people are leaking information.
  • There were supposedly invisible rattlesnakes in these parts. “Smoke snakes.”
  • The are given the seasonal bunk house to work out of.

XPs: 400 each (PCs now at  11,050, need 15,000 to reach 6th)

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Second Really Wild West Session — After-Action Report (Part One)

After the first Really Wild West: Doomstone game session After-Action Report, and its Part Two follow-up, numerous people indicated they were excited to keep learning about the campaign as I run it. So, it’s two weeks later, I’ve run another session, and adapted notes taken by my wife Lj (who is playing the fenrin operative bounty hunter named “Sawyer”) as a quick report.

If you don’t recognize a reference, it may (or may not) be in a previous session, or at the updated campaign notes page.

Chimera Kid

(Sketch of the Chimera Kid by Jacob Blackmon. The Kid is a figure in RWW: Doomstone the PCs have heard about, but not yet me. Jacob is awesome at capturing character designs in sketches like this, and you can hire him to do it for your characters!)

Session 02

The player running the human mechanic roboticist can’t make it to the game session, but wants us to proceed. That character is determined to have to stay behind in Cheyenne to repair her drone, and will be escorted to the ranch the PCs are heading to in a few days, when the Fonts & Bismark patrol comes back into town so they have spare people to do it. Since everyone wants to play, no one picks at the logic of this too much.

Most PCs stay at Mr. Satin’s Satin’s House of Refined Delights. Discover there is a bastet Norwegian Forest Cat named Caesar who is a professional cuddler. Fantastic purrer and snuggler. From a line of French pillow warmers (on his mother’s side) and a Bostonian chimney-sweet (literally crawls into a chimney and cleans it by moving through it, using token Spell to clean himself off when he’s done).

Day 3

PCs gather at the Fonts & Bismark station-house in Cheyenne to pick up the gear they are being given. Station Chief Adler introduces them to a new potential companion — Brone Mallory, a half-orc cartographer technomancer with a Doctorate in Theosophy from Oxbridge University, who is a mail-order theosopher who was hired to help survey the border between the Circle Axe and Vicious Hippogriff ranches. But the survey company went bankrupt while Mallory was in transit, so now he is between jobs. PCs agree to bring him along.

PC skill checks suggest he may have connections to the “Brone,” Normandy orc warcasters from the 900s AD, and possible the Mallory family of humanblooded spells-for-hire that operate around the Appalachians.

PCs decide to head to Circle Axe first. On their way north out of town, they are accosted by a human man with 4 mechanical arms run by a steam abckpack (in addition to his own 2 arms) grooming utensils. He declares he is “Beardcutter Ben, the Shaver’s Friend,” and makes his sales-pitch

  • He claims to be able to solve any problem we have.
  • Centaur Paladin buys a ring of oral hygene
  • Human Fighter/Mystic buys ten water pills (each pill turns into 1 gallon of water)
  • PCs get Beardcutter Ben’s calling card – a small gear-clockwork that when plugged into the Babbage-Bell grid tells you his last known location (he’s a wandering peddler)
  • He offers us a free sample of “Walking Meat” (gum). Says he can;t get anyone to buy it, but it makes long foot travel more pleasant. The human fighter/mystic accepts a piece. It tastes like unseasoned pot roast.

The PCs head north. It’s two day’s travel to the Circle Axe.

Brone writes down the lyrics to a song Sawyer sings on the trail, and does a couple of sketch portraits of her.

At camp the first night, shortly after sundown, the PCs see a figure approach them, with points of light for its eyes, and his mount’s eyes.

  • Skeletal male, humanoid, casually walking toward us. Rifle on shoulder. Pauses at 100ft.
  • He comes from the North, and is headed into town.
  • Wears a deputy’s badge with a skull on it — not a symbol anyone recognizes
  • Smells of turned earth, ashes, and heather
  • PCs can’t identify what he IS, but conclude he’s not an undead
  • He says he is “Deputy B. Hill,” works for “The Marshall.” Someone has “grave jumped,” and he thought it might be one of them — but now that he is here, he sees they are all on “the right side of the dirt.” His prey keeps covering its tracks, “Like a snake shedding its skin fer feathers.”
  • PCs suggest he (might*be hunting the same foe they are looking for. Offer to maybe help. Deputy Hill says he’ll mention the PCs to The Marshall. If Deputy Hill can’t track down the grave-jumper himself, the Marshal may send a less discerning senior deputy, Or a full posse, which can cause “collateral damage.”
  • Deputy Hill rides off, calmly. Later, his horse’s footprints disappear with soft, eerie sounds.

Day 04

A green meteor crosses the sky in the morning. East to West. In the Northern sky. No one is sure what it is, though it could be sky metal.

  • The human fighter/mystic seems to be permeated with a carrion smell, though only the fenrin operative bounty hunter can smell it (has scent).Fighter/mystic’s mouth is dry and foul.
  • Token Spell doesn’t help.
  • The cavalier’s ring of oral hygiene doesn’t help either.
  • Players determine this is an affect-effect of the Walking Meat gum, Determine to Have Words with Beardcutter Ben when they get back to town.

About half a day from the ranches, monstrous Jerusalem Bug (size Small) burst from the ground and attack, focusing on the fighter/mystic at first. PCs ID that these bugs burrow and eat carrion.

  • PCs look at real-world pictures of Jerusalem Bugs, and declare them “A Big ol Bucket of Nope”
  • The PCs identify these eight creatures are Rowdies (first time I have used those rules in a game).
  • They bite and spit entangling resin. Also, rub their legs together making static electric jolts and dust clouds.
  • Fighter/mystic moves to not be surrounded, suffers a knockdown crit. Draws a long knife to fight rather than pistol (has Cleave and there are many AoO possible with so many melee foes)
  • PCs roll BADLY, and the Jerusalem Bugs get multiple knockdown crits.
  • Brone Mallory, the half-orc technomancer, mostly just maintains microbot assault through the whole fight, but the margin makes a difference several times.
  • Tough fight. The fenrin operative bounty hunter loses all Stamina Points, though the player identified she kept taking unnecessary risks.
  • PCs win. Fighter-Mystic heals fenrin operative bounty hunter’s Wound damage, and then most characters take 10 minutes and expend Resolve to regain Stamina Points.

End Part One!

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Fire-Breathing Robodino for Starfinder

Okay, so we did a quick robodino kitbash, and compiled the rules for it in one place. But folks still want more robodinos! What’s a game design blogger to do?

Give ’em what they want!

The “Tyrannocyber Wrecks” is a slightly more complex animal-to-robot conversion. We followed the steps outlined yesterday, but we have gone a bit further. We added an integral ranged weapon appropriate for a CR 9 combatant array, and removed swallow whole and replaced it with a fire breath weapon using the guidelines for the universal creature rule. (I’m not sure who decided tyrannosaurus robots breath fire, but it’s a well-known science-fantasy trope. 🙂 ) Since we gave it ranged weapons, we updated the skills and the ability scores to be standard for a CR 9 combatant and adjusted the initiative and melee damage to match.

This is the work of maybe 10 minutes instead of 5, but it gives us a more complex example of a kitbashed foe!

Mecharex

(Art by vexworldwide)

ROBODINOSAUR, Tyrannocyber Wrecks

Tyrannocyber Wrecks             CR 9

XP 6,400
N Gargantuan construct (technological)
Init +4; Senses darkvision 60 ft., low-light vision; Perception +17

DEFENSE             HP 145

EAC 22; KAC 24
Fort +10; Ref +7; Will +7
Immunities construct immunities; unliving

OFFENSE

Speed 40 ft.
Melee bite +22 (2d10+15 S; crit. bleed 2d6)
Ranged integrated salamander-class burner +19 2d10+9 F, line, crit burn 2d6)
Space 20 ft.; Reach 20 ft.
Offensive Abilities breath weapon (60-ft. cone, 10d6 F, Reflex DC 16 half, usable every 1d4 rounds)

STATISTICS

Str +6; Dex +4; Con —; Int +0; Wis +0; Cha +3
Skills Athletics +17, Intimidate +22
Languages Common, Draconic

ECOLOGY

Environment any
Organization solitary, pair, or pack (3–6)

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More Robodinos for Starfinder

So… apparently robot dinosaurs for Starfinder are popular!

Who knew?

Okay, even through the whole point of Monday’s article was to make it easy for folks to create their own kitbashed creatures, I’ll offer a few more robodinos since so many people asked for them.

To put the dino-to-robodino “template” all in one place, here’s what you need to do to your stat block:

Change type from “Animal to “Construct (technological)”
Add darkvision (60 feet).
Set Constitution to —
Reduce Fortitude save by -4
Reduce Reflex save by -4
Reduce Will save by -2
Add “construct immunities” and “unliving”
Increase all attacks by +1

Let’s do my obvious favorite–the mechabrontosaurus.

Mechabronto

(Art by PatSM)

ROBODINOSAUR, Mechabrontosaurus

Mechabrontosaurus, CR 10

XP 9,600
N Gargantuan construct (technological)
Init +0; Senses darkvision (60 ft.), low-light vision; Perception +19

Defense          HP 165

EAC 23; KAC 25
Fort +12; Ref +7; Will +8
Immunities construct immunities; unliving

Offense

Speed 30 ft.
Melee tail +22 (2d10+18 B; critical knockdown)
Space 20 ft.; Reach 20 ft.
Offensive Abilities trample (2d10+18 B, DC 17)

Statistics

STR +8; DEX +0; CON +5; INT -4; WIS +1; CHA -2

Ecology

Environment any
Organization solitary, pair, or herd (3–12)

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Quick Kitbashing Starfinder Monsters

Sometimes you want a new foe your players haven’t seen before, or that perfectly fits a need in your adventure. (I’ve been doing this fairly often as I prepare to run Really Wild West games, for example). But you don’t want to take the time to build a minor foe from scratch.

Luckily, in Starfinder, reskinning and kitbashing new foes can be quick, easy, and do a great job of creating new enemies.

Let’s say you want a new robot foe for your PCs to tangle with. A robot dinosaur, perhaps?

Let’s make a velocirobot.

Robodino

(Art by DM7)

Since the dinosaur, dromeaosaurid is pretty close to a velociraptor, let’s start with that. First, we take away anything it shouldn’t have. So, the dromeaosaurid is an animal. That means it got low-light vision, and a +2 bonus to Fort and Ref saves. Since our velociraobot is a construct rather than an animal, we strip those out.

Next we add what a construct gets. So darkvsion and low-light, set Con to –, -2 to all saves, and +1 to all attacks. That’s all we *have* to do to make this rules-correct. (If we’d done things with subtypes, we could go through those too… but the Robot Dragon entries suggest we can also just blur those lines if we want to).

And now, in less than 5 minutes, we have a custom robot!

ROBODINOSAUR, VELOCIROBOT

Velocirobot    CR 3
XP 800
N Medium construct (technological)
Init +3; Senses darkvision 60 ft., low-light vision; Perception +8

DEFENSE                HP 45

EAC 13; KAC 15
Fort +2; Ref +3; Will +0
Immunities construct immunities; unliving

OFFENSE

Speed 50 ft.
Melee talons +12 (1d6+5 S; critical bleed 1d6) or bite +12 (1d6+5 P)
Offensive Abilities pounce

STATISTICS

Str +2; Dex +3; Con –; Int –4; Wis +1; Cha +0
Skills Acrobatics +8, Stealth +13

SPECIAL ABILITIES

Pounce (Ex) When a velocirobot charges, it can also make a full attack.

ECOLOGY

Environment any
Organization solitary, pair, or pack (3–12)

Robodino2

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The Game Industry’s Insanity

There’s a famous quote about insanity — “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”

So, in that regard, I am afraid the tabletop game industry is insane. There are lots and lots of things the industry keeps doing, over and over, and being surprised when it gets the same results.

Owen Bust

And, I don’t know that there’s much chance of that ever changing. Because the tabletop industry just isn’t big enough to bring in the kind of analysis and training it takes to properly analyze, iterate, redesign, and take risks about how the whole system is put together.

Here’s just one example — a single data point in a sea of oft-unexamined assumptions.

When my wife was earning her Bachelor’s Degree in Fine Art, she took a class titled “The Business of Art.” In included how to promote yourself, write a resume, respond in an interview, create a portfolio, and so on. While there are more and more college-level classes about game design, they A: tend to focus on digital games (which represent a LOT more money as a market), and B: don’t have tabletop equivalents of “The Business of Games.”

So each new wave of people wanting to do professional ttRPG work have to cobble together best practices and a career path for themselves. Quite reasonably, they look to what was done by people who have the work they want to do and try to replicate, emulate, or adapt those steps. (Adapting is an important part — I came up through a series of magazine articles, from different tabletop-RPG-focused magazines, owned by different game companies. That’s not really an option anymore.)

So the same advice keeps going out, through the same venues… and keeps drawing in the same kinds of creators. Those of us who have ttRPG careers are asked how to get started–on social media, and at conventions, and in fan interviews– and we advise getting on social media, going to conventions, working with small presses and maybe fan projects.

So, the process that we found, and that appeals to us and is friendly to us, is the one we recommend to people (because, to be fair, it works), using the very venues we recommend newcomers depend on to move ahead, is held out as the best path for new talent.

On a larger scale, it’s similar with game companies. Open calls and contests (advertised in the same forums the people running the companies already use), and panels at conventions the company already have a presence at, and waiting for freelancers to drop pitches or ask how to get started at company forums or using company emails.

And, again, that’s reasonable.

But it does mean as long as the majority of elements in the game industry do what we have done, we’re going to get what we have gotten.

So, why is that a problem?

Because diversity is gold.

Because if we want to industry to grow beyond its roots, somehow there has to be an influx of new ideas, new creators, and thus new markets.

Of course some amazing and talented people DO manage to make their way into the industry. Some find the road that we take and use it despite it being harder for them. others forge whole new paths without any help from the existing system. Not only am I not claiming these folks don’t exist, I am specifically saying a bunch of them are BETTER than many of us who took the well-trod path.

But in terms of sheer numbers, creators from marginalized groups remain very much the minority. Which means their input remains a small fraction of the total amount of ttRPG content, and that most game companies don’t have a balance of different experiences and backgrounds among their creators.

A lot of ttRPG game companies are currently looking at the question of whether their products have been, or currently are, vehicles for racism, bigotry, and the reinforcement of negative stereotypes. There are tools that can (and should) be brought in to try to do better, including more outreach to different creators, research of the cultural impact of aspects that inspire new games, and bringing in sensitivity readers.

But as for the origins of the material, the people deciding what book gets publisher, which creators get bigger budgets, who is seem as “qualified” to work on big IPs — if the industry as a whole keeps doing what it ha been doing, it’ll keep getting what it has gotten.

This past weekend was Digital Gen Con, and my friend and colleague Stan! had the idea of us trying to recreate some of the “Bar Con” hanging out that many pros love to do after  hours at a convention. So we did… and we saw a lot of people we would have seen in person.

But we also had some folks participate that couldn’t have made it to a physical Gen Con, and many who would find gen Con a terrible experience for any of a number of reasons. I was something different.

It’s far from a solution to the insanity. But it did make me think maybe there are more chances at improvement than I have normally thought.

That’s just one small part of the imperfect nature of the #RealGameIndustry I have seen over the years. But I hope shining a spotlight on it might convince one or two other people in the industry to look at new ways to getting information out. New ways ti tutor and mentor people. New ways to find creators.

New ways to change from insanity.

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Q&A with Owen for Digital Gen Con

Heya Folks!

I have an ear infection, which took me out Thursday and most of Friday. But I also did some AMA things to try to replicate the hanging out experiences of Gen Con for its digital equivalent. A lot of the good questions and answers are buried deep in threads, so I wanted to pull them together for you with simplified versions of the questions as a double-helping of blog post content!

So, just pretend this was all said while hanging out at a bar after-hours of a convention. 🙂

Image may contain: Owen KC Stephens

Q: What general advice would you give someone just starting to get into ttRPG game design?
A: Keep creating.
Seek work-life-balance.
Try new things. Write a new poker game. Do a chess variant. Look for the neat parts of games you dislike.
Listen to and read advice from everyone. Especially people with different backgrounds and life experiences.
Diversity is gold.

 

Q: Other than writing and creative writing, what skills should I develop to be a better tabletop Roleplaying Game designer?

A: I recommend looking at some game-specific skills. For example, what makes something fun? (And, I absolutely suggest A Theory of Fun for Game Design by Raph Koster). Look at probability and averages and bell curves, with regards to dice. Especially if you use dice-based games.
Then, write some things for yourself. Doing it on a blog or appropriate form can help get some feedback, but the important thing is to write ALL of a few different kinds of game content.
For example, write an entire adventure.
That adventure can be just three encounters, but include the introduction, the instruction to the GM, descriptions of areas and NPC motivations, any monsters, treasure, wrap-up, and so on. For example for Pathfinder 2e: I’d say write a short adventure. Write a spell at each level, and make sure they are divided among the traditions. Write some feats. Write an archetype. Write items at different item levels. The best way to start is to *start*. You’ll learn from there.
If you want to write for a game that has multiple publishers supporting it, reach out to all of them. Find emails. Know what lines of products they publish. Make some pitches. I have some blog articles where I talk about pitches.
https://owenkcstephens.com/2018/12/10/writing-basics-rpg-pitches-part-one/
https://owenkcstephens.com/2019/01/23/writing-basics-rpg-pitches-part-two/
Also, follow and read every professional game designer, editor, and publisher you can on social media. Interact with them, politely and positively. Learn from them, both in the knowledge they offer, and how they comport themselves (you can learn from bad examples too).
Don’t just follow and interact with designers that fit one mold either. Learn from everyone. All games systems, all backgrounds, all life experiences. Diversity is golden. I

 

Q: I am often convinced my ttRPG project has no value. How do I push through and finish it?

A: Sometimes, you just have to push through. I often promise myself I’ll send a thing out to be reviewed and, if the reviewers hate it, never publish it. Self-inflicted negativity is super common among gaming pros. I talk about it at bit in this blog article.
https://owenkcstephens.com/2018/08/13/imposter-syndrome-in-the-game-industry/

 

Q: How do your organize your projects?
A:  I generally start by working on an outline. Be it a huge book. tiny article, or even a whole game line, an outline of high points and sections is the best way for me to organize my thoughts and keep track of where I am.
I personally just organize my outlines in word, using various headers.
I talk a little about outlines in this blog article, which also links to my related article on headers/
https://owenkcstephens.com/2019/10/28/writing-basics-the-freelance-work-process/

 

Q: What are the most important elements of game lore and worldbuilding?
A: Creativity
Clarity
Relatability, balanced with originality.
Utility. If a GM or player can’t use it somehow — to describe a region or culture, to inspire adventures, to explain important bakground — then why are you including it?
And a few interesting touchstones of details that are just enough to catch GM and player’s interests.

 

Q: Is the twenty-sided die the best randomizer for ttRPG rules?
A: There is no ideal. Each randomizer had pros and cons. d20 is simple, easily understood, and has a nice range of results. But 2 is as likely as 20. For some things, bell curves are good. For some, die pools. For some, drawing cards. It depends on what the needs of your game are.

 

Q: How do I acknowledge the impact previous games have had on my game design?
A: Ignoring the question of specific licenses (such as the OGL) which can complete things– I like forewords, myself. “Many amazing games and designers helped guide me as I worked on Halfling & Haberdasheries. I was particularly inspired by the Kobold Caps “hat trick” mechanics.”

 

Q: How much should I budget for art in an RPG? How much do artists charge?

A: Most concept artists have rate sheets, so you know in advance what you need to budget for them. Which runs from dozens to hundreds of dollars per piece. Also, talk to them about how they handle sketches and revisions.
Here’s sample rates, for finished art from Jacob Blackmon.

Image

 

Q: I want to learn to play new RPGs. Other than dropping in on new groups at conventions, what else can I do?

A: When life gets back to normal, you can see if your Local Friendly Gaming Store has new game nights, or a board with people offering to teach games. 🙂

 

Q: I have a project I want to send to playtesters since I can’t safely playtest in person but… what if the people I send it to steal it?

A: Get signed Non-Disclosure agreements from everyone before sending them the files. And send them to folks you trust. That’s what big companies do. And if you can, get at least one session done digitally so you can watch, it can be super-insightful!

 

Q: What are good and bad ways for fans to approach you at a convention or event>

A: My favorite way is politely and directly. “Hi, I’m a Big Fan. Would you sign my book for me?”
If I seem to be at liberty, invite me to a meal (Monica is not wrong — I got some quality time with Aaron Allston by offering to buy him lunch), or a drink.
If I am in a group, just stand in it, and if the conversation goes that way, offer to say hi.
My least favorite is barging and demanding. I have had people interrupt whoever I am talking to, or interrupt me, to introduce themselves and gush out a question in the middle of someone else’s answer.
Also, don’t ask me for a lot of time to do you a favor when we first meet. “Hi, will you go over this adventure I printed and have with me and tell me what I need to do to it so you’ll publish it?” is a bad introduction.
Nothing wrong with letting me know you’d like to know if I do such things, but work up to it in stages, and don’t expect it to happen right here and now.
Also if I am on a panel, or heading to another panel, or manning a booth and trying to sell things, don’t plant yourself in front of me and monopolize my tine.
Also, introduce yourself, even if we’ve spoken before. I can be bad at connecting name and face. Let me know the context of why you want to talk to me.”I love your work on Star Wars Saga Edition” tell me you know who I am. “You’re a designer, right? You hire people?” makes me wonder if you are just an opportunist.
Being an opportunist can be fine, to be clear, but even then I recommend using something I just said as a jumping -off point to talk to me, rather than try to jerk the conversation to your topic.
Don’t hug without asking if it’s okay (I am generally fine with it, but I am also a big believer in enthusiastic, ongoing consent).
Also, I personally recommend attaching your name badge with two lanyards, one in each corner, so it is less likely to flip around backwards.

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