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“Three If By Air”

Okay, this is one run at “Three if By Air, the Game of Revolutionary War Air Combat.”
Written by Owen K.C. Stephens, Illustrated by Stan!

The final may play nothing like this.

MAP

Play on a hex grid at least 22 x 36. Each player sprinkles a handful of coins (no more than 20, no less than 5) across the grid for terrain. These represent things sticking up into the air–steeples, treetops, flagpoles, and so on. (Look it’s the 1700s, You are fighting HIGH in the air!) Center each coin in a hex. If an attack you be traced through a hex with a coin, you can’t make that attack unless an ability says otherwise.

PLAYERS

Players — 2          Units — 6 each
Players — 3          Units — 4 each
Players — 4          Units — 3 each
Players — 5 or 6  Units — 2 each

Each player is British, or American. In 2, 4, and 6 player games, make teams of an even number of players. In 3 or 5 player games, it’s a free-for all (fog of war, and all that — the final game may include more factions such as Canadian Moose Dirigibles, Tidewater Steam Gliders, and Pogo-Armed Yetis, for all I know).

British players may have British or Hessian troops. American players may have American or French troops, but cannot have more French than American.

Make your units before play. You get 10 points. Divide them among these 5 attributes, which are used with combat characteristics, no more than 4 in any one attribute.

Attributes
Offense: Used with ATTACK.
Defense: Used with EVADE.
Toughness: Used with HEALTH.
Speed: Used with MOVE.
Accuracy: Used with RANGE.
.
COMBAT CHARACTERISTICS
ATTACK: For each attack, roll 1d6 and add your Offense. If the value exceeds your target’s Evade, the difference is the damage you do.
EVADE: Each time you are attacked, roll 1d6 an add your Defense to see if you are damaged.
HEALTH: You can take damage equal to 2 + double your Toughness value. If damage would reduce you below this number, that unit is removed from play.
MOVE: Determines both movement order and how far you can go. Each round you can move a number of hexes equal to 1d6 + your Speed, to a maximum of 7. If you choose not to ATTACK, you may move an additional 1d6 hexes in phase 2. You can always move less than your maximum (including moving 0).
RANGE: Each round at the beginning of Phase 2 you roll 1d6 -3, and add your Accuracy. On that Phase you can attack foes a number of hexes away equal to this number, to a minimum RANGE of 1.

UNITS

If you are AMERICAN, your units are Lightingrod Class War Kites. If on your first attack against a target your attack roll is a natural 6 (a 6 shows on the d6), you may also attack a second unit if it is within 6 hexes.

If you are BRITISH, your units as Beefeater Rocket Cavalry. You gain a +1 to attacks made against a target in an adjacent hex.

If you are FRENCH, your units are Hot Air Balloon Dragoons. When one of your units takes damage, it moves 1 hex in a direction of your choice.

If you are Hessian, your units are Trebuchet Infantry, lobbed into the air by ground forces each round. You may only move in a straight line each turn, and gain +1 ATTACk and +1 EVADE.

PLACEMENT

Each player picks one side of the map to begin on, in secret. All sides are then all revealed. If two or players pick the same side, and there is a side with fewer players having picked it, the players each roll a d6 (rerolling ties) and the one who rolls highest decides to stay or move 1 side clockwise to the nearest side with fewer players. After that, each other player in descending order of die rolls must  move 1 side clockwise to the nearest side with fewer players until there is not a side of the map with fewer players assigned to it.

The each player rolls 3d6 and totals them. In descending order of those die rolls, each player places 1 unit within 3 inches of their side of the map. Proceed through this order until all units are placed.

PLAY
Phase 1.
Everyone rolls their MOVE. The unit with the highest move may choose to go first, or wait and go last. If two units have a tied MOVE, they may defer to one another, or write down their movement and reveal them simultaneously to move simultaneously.

The unit with the next highest MOVE then decides to go immediately, or go last (or next-to-last if the highest MOVE is going last).
Proceed until everyone has moved.

Phase 2.

In order of MOVE, each unit rolls its RANGE, then attacks or moves another 1d6 hexes.
Proceed through all units, then the round is over, and go to Phase 1 of the next round.

RETREAT

If a player ever goes 3 rounds in a row without any unit making an ATTACK against a target in range, that player’s units are considered to have no taste for battle and retreat, and are removed from play.

VICTORY

If you have eliminated more than half of an opponent’s units, that opponent is eliminated and any remaining units are removed of play.

One side wins when all opposing sides have had all their units removed from play.

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Speculative Fiction Show Ideas

Speculative Fiction Show Ideas

Look, Amazon and Netflix are greenlighting everything else, so…

“SPOOKED” When the randomly-selected patsy of a deep cover spy mission turns out to have an honest-to-magic necromancer as a sister, spies and ghosts face off in a world that runs from honeypots to ceramic urns and pits undercover against undead.

“BLACK SPOT” For centuries the Order of the Black Spot have been hunting and killing pirates, working outside of government and outside the law. Now the King, Queen, and Jack of Spades, the royal family ruling the order, have mysteriously turned to the FBI to give information about bringing down both the remaining pirate organizations of the world, and their own Order.

“CRIME AND CHAOS” When the government becomes the problem, who can the people turn to? A mastermind thief, greedy con, addicted stage magician, reformed pacifist ex-assassin, gray hat hacker, and disillusioned counterfeiter form the ultimate crime league, with their only targets the corrupted forces who now control law and order.

“PLAN Z” Dozens of corporations and more than a few terrorist groups have access to a weaponized virus that creates undead, and the governments of the world are endlessly dealing with breakouts and pandemics in a desperate bid to prevent the zombie apocalypse. When a zone is too hot for any human to be sent in, the trained, international, experimental squad of soldiers who are immune carries to the zombie virus are sent in as Plan Z.

“GOTHIC JUSTICE” When Lady Penanggalan went to sleep in 1800, she expected her monstrous partners to wake her in a century, as agreed. Now it’s 2017, and she’s discovered not only did the other Gothic Scions betray her, most have turned to run organized crime. She is pissed, and ready to work with human law if that’s what it takes to gain her revenge. But the most powerful of those scions, the dreaded Akephaloi or “Headless Man” knows more about Lady Pen’s sleep and why her allies betrayed her than she could ever guess.

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Ten Unlikely FOX/Disney Mash-Ups, Ranked!

So, as of today, Disney owns the FOX catalog of movies and television fiction.

Sure, that means LOTS more characters enter the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and Star Wars: A New Hope distribution rights now go back to Lucasfilm. Those are the “mainstream” stories about this merger.

But Disney had made TONS of money building linked cinematic universes and rebooting properties in the past 15 years.

So, what are some unlikely but now technically possible combinations of new FOX acquisitions and old Disney properties they could try?

Here are Ten, ranked from worst to best.

10. Program of the APES (Planet of the Apes/TRON)

When an uplifted chimpanzee finds an old, independent research facility…. Nope. I can’t do it. Some great tastes just do NOT taste great together!

9. DIE HARD Wore TENNIS SHOES (Die Hard/The Computer Wore Tennis Shoes)


The only reason this isn’t the worst idea on this list is that I COULD see a way to do this as a parody… and Program of the APES really is a worse idea.

8. Serenity Witches (Firefly/Witch Mountain)

I mean, it might be fun just to see Browncoats’ heads explode. Mal and the Serenity must help a couple of psychic kids escape their government pursuers and return to the frontier planet Witch Mountain.

7. Swiss Family Robinson ALIEN

Yes, it’s a reach, but hear me out. In the future a family of explorers, with one famous example of being stranded, get stuck when their colony ship crashes on a deserted planet. They set about trying to survive already harsh conditions, when one of the animals finds this leathery egg…

Alien is at its best as either full-on military action, or small, isolated horror. Why not try that second one again?

(But if you do… yeah let’s NOT actually mention Swiss Family Robinson)\

6. Flight of the AVATAR

Do a straight-up remake of Flight of the Navigator, but with a Na’vi kid.

This is a heartless cash grab idea. Those always do well, right?

5. My X-FILES Project (X-Files, My Science Project)

A group of teens find the junkyard where the government sticks all the alien gadgets and gizmos that were stolen away to make sure the FBI team known as the X-Files can’t prove they exist. Now the X-Files are closed down, and it’s up to the kids to use the alien tech they have recovered to investigate other strange phenomenon.

Okay… I’d at least give this one a try.

4. Predator: Black Hole

I’m not saying there’s any tonal or aesthetic justification to linking these properties. I’m just saying if I get a movie post with Maximilian facing off against a Predator, and the tagline “The Most Dangerous Hunter Needs the Most Dangerous Hunting Grounds,” with the Cygnus and a black hole in the background?

I’m in!

And no one knows what to do with either franchise, so why not give it a shot?

3. Muppet Night at the Museum

Hear me out!

All you need is for the Museum where exhibits come to life to have a travelling Muppet display be installed, and hilarity ensues! Let’s face it, Night at the Museum could use a threequel, and Disney doesn’t know what to do with the Muppets anyway. And Miss Piggy karate chopping soldiers of all eras has some promise for comedy.

2. Kingsman/Pirates of the Caribbean

Look, Disney is GOING to make more PotC movies. If one of the new characters is a tailor, who gets a huge pirate treasure an uses it to begin training other tailors as super-spies? That’s a win.

1. The Orville/The Cat From Outer Space

This one is a no-brainer, but it should also be more an Easter Egg in an Orville two-parter, or MAYBE for “The Orville The Movie.”

But you can’t convince me a race of psychic cats isn’t perfect for The Orville.

BONUS MASH-UP

Ice Age “Live Action” Remake

Ice Age lost some steam, but still has lots of fans and great actors in its key roles. Just give us photo-real CGI prehistoric beasts, and people will pack the theaters.

This is the ONE idea on this page I think has any chance whatsoever of actually happening.

(Though if Disney wants to pay me to explain how ANY of these ideas could work, I’m available!)

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TOP TEN INEVITABLE GEEK SHOWS

I haven’t done one of these for a while, so:
TOP TEN INEVITABLE GEEK SHOWS

10. The Southsons Family Park and Morty
Irreverent animated family comedy that riffs off more popular shows, while trying to create its own catchphrases and making all the same mistakes and with less original writing.

9. Preteennatural
Look, Supernatural has gone on forever, all the main characters have died (most more than once), and no spin-off has been produced. So:
Young hunky gender-swapped clones of the most popular characters–Deanne, Samantha, Charlie, and Cassielle, try to make their own path and escape the shadow of their originals.

8. GRIMLOCK
A reboot of the T-Rex Transformer as a high-functioning sociopath robot that solves crimes. Seven episodes over four years!

7. Mithral Girls
Linda Carter heads up this heroines-of-a-certain-age sitcom when powerful, confident women who saved the world in the 40s, 50s, 60s, and 70s decide retirement isn’t the best use of their golden years.

6. Crowd Hoot
UNIT was disbanded for budgetary reasons… but not everyone is willing to leave the Earth undefended. Every time a new threat looms, rogue “Companion’s Companions” gather a different force of people who have traveled in a TARDIS before to deal with it. All under the direction of the mysterious mastermind “DN.”

5. Agents of G.O.T.H.A.M
It practically writes itself, continuity be damned.

4. Throne of Games
Political intrigue, sex, betrayal, and war as a single shared video game universe groans under the weight of Smash Brothers, Tekken, Mortal Combat, and Kingdom Hearts all fighting to control the Grid. The mash-up you never asked for!

3. The Mighty Crusaders
Heroes are big, in movies and on TV. Archie Comics characters are making a big push on TV and streaming. So doesn’t it make sense for the heroes originally written by Superman co-creator Jerry Siegel to get their own show?
The Shield, Flygirl, the Black Hood, War Eagle (if the rights can be ironed out), the Shadow (again, rights), the Comet. The Crusade starts now!

2. Star Trek: Eugenics War
After the war, the records of what happened when got badly confused. The Eugenics War is now, and Khan is Earth’s last, best hope.
I mean, it’s worth a shot…

1. CSI: Brainiac
He’s stolen cities and destroyed planets to collect all the knowledge in the universe. But there are some unsolved mysteries throughout the galaxy Brainiac can’t stand not knowing the answers to. So the all-powerful artificial intelligence has gathered the best CSIs of all worlds and sets them to solve one mystery each week.
Or else.

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Revised, Partial List of Very Fantasy Words (Update!)

The most recent update to the Revised, Partial List of Very Fantasy Words can be found here!

Need to make a region sound more like a Croft or Realm? Want to make sure people reading your fantasy text think of you as argute?

Well then, you need a Very Fantasy Word!

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Holiday Poem: The Night Before Adventure

Happy holidays all! Regular articles will return with the new year, but for now please enjoy this bit of silliness.

It was the Night before Adventure and all through the Party,

Not a Creature Was Stirring, their snores much too hearty.

No one on watch, they trusted a spell,

And if it didn’t work, their mage they’d give hell.

The steeds were all stabled, the familiars asleep,

The summoner’s eidolon made not a peep.

The rogue clad in mithral, paladin in full plate,

Knew the forces of evil would just have to wait.

When from camp’s edge there arose a loud scream,

Two boom, three zaps, and one laser beam.

“To arms” a knight screamed, to weapons they dashed,

Though the bard didn’t make it, his head was too bashed.

The wards all collapse, some hirelings did flee,

As a cyborg rust monster attacked us with glee.

“I won’t kill you all” it said in voice clipped,

“I’ll just rot your stuff, so your power is dipped.”

The adventurers all gasped, and considered the horrors,

Of loosing their status as bad-ass top scorers.

They rolled their initiative, and cast up their buffs,

And leaped up to engage in violent fisticuffs.

The monster did taunt them, and call them bad names,

As it used its evasion to dodge magic flames.

They stabbed it, and slashed it, and missiled it with magic,

Until its form was quite punctured, lifeless, and tragic.

The adventurers smiled, and kicked the dead brute,

For they knew in its lair, there was surely more loot.

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Microsetting: Midlands

The Plains are the safest. Not safe, mind you, but not as bad as when you move too far in any other direction.

They can’t cross running water, so the Mississippi is the barrier from the East. I’ve heard the Panama Canal is as safe as you can go South, but I don’t know anyone who has gone any further than Laredo. Something about the air. Baja California is supposedly still okay, but god help them for being so far West.

There’s no set barrier between the Plains and the West Coast. The Rockies do most of the work of keeping us safe, but stay clear of the passes. Everyone knows what happened at Logan Pass, and I saw how bad things get close to Marias Pass myself. I-15 is like a line of death, and they move north-south along it much, much too easily. I-90 isn’t as bad, but it’s not good either. I don’t go farther North than Nebraska, anymore. I’m told U.S. 20 is worse, but I never saw anything on it.

I wish I could say they only come out at night, but that’s not true. They see better at night than we do, or at least most of ’em do, so night’s more dangerous. But they can move and hunt in the day, too. The leaner pickings get, the more they hunt in the light. But that doesn’t mean you should feel safe if there are people around. Some groups just haven’t been hit yet. Others make… arrangements. Arrangements that don’t go well for strangers to their area.

Shooting them in the head is great, but not strictly necessary and requires you to be sure what part is the head. If you have the ammo, center-mass is still the safest bet, but it takes a lot of lead. Clubs seems useless, and machetes are too likely to chip and bend. Spears are okay, but you need some kind of cross-brace, or they just pull themselves down it until they get to you.

Axes are good. Shovels work in a pinch, if sharpened.

Don’t listen to anything broadcast. Don’t eat anything you can’t identify, even if it comes from a can. Don’t try to read anything in a language you don’t recognize. If you think you can hear the stars, get inside. If someone near you says they can hear the stars?

Axes are good.

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Horrifically Overpowered Star-Feats

Very soon, RGG will be releasing Starfarer’s Codex: Horrifically Overpowered Feats.

And it’s my fault.

This is, obviously, a new entry in the Horrifically Overpowered line of game supplements, bringing the world of OP to Starfinder-compatible games. And while it WILL update many of the old Pf-edition OP feats, that’s not all the book has.

Oh heavens no.

It is SO much worse than that.

“How bad could it be?” you ask. Pretty bad. game-breakingly bad. You should never allow ANY of these into your campaign.

Seriously, let me show you.

Here’s just a few examples of Horrifically Overpowered Star Feats.

Ain’t Got Time To Bleed (Horrifically Overpowered)
You can rest when you’re dead.
Benefit: As a full action, you can use any option available to you that normally takes 10 minutes. You are subject to all the other restrictions of the action (it’s fast not free, get real).

Ancestral Plasma Canon
You have an item your family has carried into star battle with star demons for star centuries.
Benefit: Select one category of item that is not consumed when it is used, such as a small arm, heavy weapon, light armor, an armor upgrade, or a technological, hybrid, or magic item. Each time you gain a new character level, this item is upgraded to any item of the same category you wish with an item level no greater than your character level +2. If the item is lost or destroyed, it or a replacement returns to you no later than the next time you gain a character level.

Resolved (Horrifically Overpowered)
No one is more resolved than you are.
Benefit: The Resolve Point cost of any ability or option that requires Resolve Points is one lower than normal for you. If that makes the Resolve Point cost 0 or less (yeah, or less—if you are allowing THIS option, who KNOWS what you’ve allowed into your campaign?!) you can still only use the ability if you have at least 1 Resolve Point remaining in your Resolve Pool.

If you want to make me stop writing such ridiculous pandering products which appeal only to power gamers and bring shame on my reputation as a professional, feel free to join my Patreon, in the hopes the money will distract me and put an end to this terrible idea.
Or… I mean back me and tell me to write more. As long as you give me money, I don;t care what you ask me to do.

Ichthine–A Species for all -finder games!

As far as I can tell, the urge to do this species came straight from the art, by the amazing Jacob Blackmon. Certainly nothing else I can think of inspired this. The write up should work for both the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game and the Starfinder Roleplaying Game.

ICHTHINE

The ichthine are an ancient, accomplished species who have had access to star travel for millions of years. Able to place themselves into a natural form of hibernation, their species travelled the stars in vast slower-than-light ships to explore and learn. However, lacking any way to communicate with each other or their homeworld, each ichthine ship became its own hub of knowledge and developed its own culture. Most eventually began to break down in systems lacking the technology to repair or replace their advanced systems, and the ichthine inhabitants within eventually choose a new world to colonize. Ichthine than thus be found on thousands of world, many of which have no native star-travel capacity, or have only developed such capacity in recent centuries. If the original ichthine homeworld is still populated, none of the current ichthine populations know where it is. It has even been suggested the ichthine originated in a different galaxy, though most scholars dismiss this as hyperbolic legend.

Ichthine culture has survived, however, in part because they have a remarkable racial memory that retains a great deal of core knowledge from generation to generation. Each ichthine is born knowing the Aquan language, already able to speak and understand basic phrases, with a general knowledge of the history of their line. Thus most ichthine populations are aware of their long history of star travel, even those living on worlds with no more than iron age levels of technology. While the ichthine diaspora happened so long ago that many isolated ichthine populations have evolved to look radically different than their distant cousins, most recognize their kinship to ichthine of all types, and can remember in general terms a time when they had a united appearance.

On many worlds ichthine are known as “grandparent fish,” and are considered skilled advisors and scholars, Icthine generally take a long view of things, from history to politics to religious tolerance. This partially comes from their long lifespans and partially from their racial memories, but also seems to be a natural tendency of the species. While young ichthine are significantly more excitable than their older relatives, even as “tads” ichthine generally contemplate major actions and their consequences before diving into them.

However, once an ichthine has decided a risk or consequence is worth the benefit that causes it, they are loathe to reconsider that opinion without significant new evidence. This sometimes leads to ichthine picking up damaging vices, or remaining friends with people who have changed from being short-sighted or brash to being genuinely destructive or evil. Ichthine also think strongly in terms of groups, and hate excluding anyone once they have been accepted into any social or cultural organization.

Grandparent Fish

(Art by Jacob Blackmon. Available as stock art here!)

Species Traits

Ichthine are Medium monstrous humanoids. Despite their fishlike appearance, they can easily manipulate items with their nimble fins as well as a human with two normal hands.

+2 Wis, +2 Cha, -2 Str. Ichthine are calm and caring, often contemplating how helping others may help them as well, but have frame ill-suited to the leverage needed for optimized application of strength.

Movement. Ichthine have a 20-foot move rate, and a 30-foot swim rate.

Deep Senses. Ichthine have low-light vision and darkvision. When in a liquid environment, they also have blindsight, 30 feet.

Amphibious. Ichthine can breath air and water with equal ease.

Depth acclimated. Icthine ignore penalties for high pressure, both in water and in normal atmosphere.

Hibernate (Ex). As a full action an ichthine can slow its metabolism to a crawl, radically reducing its need for air, water, and food. In this state it does not suffocate or starve, and is considered unconscious for most purposes. However, a hibernating ichthine can make Perception checks at -10 to notice changes to its environment while hibernating, and choose to end its hibernation as a full action. A DC 10 Medicine check is required to differentiate between a hibernating ichthine and a dead one. An icthine’s hibernation can last for tens of thousands of years with no harm.

Racial Memory (Ex). An ichthine can attempt a recall lore task with untrained skills, regardless of the check’s DC. An ichthine receives a +2 bonus to all recall lore checks. If the recall lore check is for questions relating to the ichthine’s own heritage, this bonus increases to +10.

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The Aberrant Empire

Aberrations are usually presented as lone monstrosities to be slain for their loot, or fallen kingdoms of single aberration species well past their glory days.
But if dwarves and elves and humans can have multi-species nations, why can’t there be a vast, thriving, dangerous Aberrant Empire, where all things alien and unwholesome serve a single Aberrex ruler.

Aatheriexa taskmasters cruelly drive monstrous humanoid laborers and magical beasts of burden to build twisted basalt monoliths, work fields that grow fleshy fungus, and forge weapons designed to tip tentacles and adorn eyestalks using greenish metal poisonous to non-aberrant races.

Akaname commandos sabotage the wells, waterways, and sewers of major cities or strongholds too near the Empire’s borders, ensuring disease and infestation keep potential enemies weak.

Blightspawn priests rule over congregations of non-aberrant “hostkin,” who literally give their bodies for the worship of twisted gods and the incubation of elite Imperial species.

Brume inquisitors ensure the loyalty of all with the Empire and draw knowledge out of the memories of its captured enemies, while cerebral stalkers turn what’s left of any subject into a useful servant of the Aberrex.

Choker assassins end the lives of those who threaten the Empire in silent attacks, or slaughter those foe’s loved ones and allies if unable to crush the enemy’s windpipe directly.

Destrachan heralds sound the calls to mobilize Aberrant armies, and learn the sounds of insanity from their Aberrant nobles to let loose mind-shattering calls that blast psyche as well as flesh.

Ailing aberrations that have served the empire well join in final, dread rituals to combine into egregores, or yah-thelgaad, ensuring their experience and fell knowledge can continue to fulfill imperial needs for centuries more.

Ethereal filchers both guard the border planes around the Empire, and act as intelligence agents, stealing opposing forces plans from their very pockets.

Froghemoth juggernauts, directed by armored ghorazagh commissars, anchor mighty armies and naval forces, acting as living siege engines, and often ridden by khardajeen artillery.

Incutilis and their lords man flotillas and watery caravans, ensuring that the appetites of the Empire are met, and that those who oppose them are subdued and forced to serve the Empire’s needs.

Hyakume magecrats rule Imperial territories, each defined by a strange border that respects no boundary non-aberrant eyes can perceive.

At the center of the Empire, sits 13 tychilarius, jointly the Aberrex, an aberrant amalgam of all the Empire’s best, most loathsome agents and lords. Do they serve a greater master? If so, can mortal minds even comprehend it?

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