Thursday, May 29, 2014

The H@rthg!r

[Transmission begins:
::Commonwealth Space Force Dispatch::
*High Confidence*

2514-MAY-14|19:05 Non-local

Commonwealth Space Force confirms a strong H@rthg!r presence in 34 Feynman system. All civilians and citizens are cautioned to avoid the system. All communication from colony on 34 Feynman, including traffic control, has been lost. Local space traffic is currently under the jurisdiction of the Commonwealth Space Force Fleet-in-presence which is conducting military actions to re-take the system. Commonwealth ground forces are also on-site and engaged in active conflict. System should be considered dangerous and hostile until further notice!

The H@rthg!r

Image Source:

Stat Block: AC 15, HD 2d6+1, THB +2, ATT by weapon+1 melee, MR 12, ST 17, MV 4, XP 30

Despite their reptilian appearance H@rthg!r are more properly classified as Archosaurs. Warm-blooded and quick moving the H@rthg!r have never not been at war. As their daily struggle to survive evolved along with themselves into the struggle to donimate their archosaur cousins then their world, eventually their solar system and now beyond.

H@rthg!r are carnivorous and physically powerful, gaining a bonus of + 1 on melee damage rolls due to their great strength. They exercise no reservations about the use of other intelligent species as food.  H@rthg!r reproduce by egg laying and earth mammals suffer a -3 on the Reaction table as they smell similar to an egg stealing rodent species native to the H@rthg!r homeworld.

The H@rthg!r military is the H@rthg!r government; there is no distinction. The same is true of the various services; the navy, cavalry and infantry are all one force. Promotion is based on ability to perform and achieve objectives quickly and efficiently. At the highest levels the warlords sit in tribunals over their clade-troops and gatherings of tribunals debate and decree ruling over their separate worlds. While the H@rthg!r present a unified face to outsiders, there is no over-arching power structure beyond the tribunals. Only by cooperation between H@rthg!r worlds can forces large enough to attack or invade other Polities be formed.

H@rthg!r uniforms, such as they are, tend to be camo designs. It is the H@rthg!r themselves where the colors really come into it. Skin colors, based on clade, tend to be mottled or spotted in pattern and are greens, reds, oranges and yellows with occasional blacks or browns reflective of the individual's homeworld.

H@rthg!r Warparty Squad Size: 9+ H@rthg!r (2 fire teams of 3 H@rthg!r, 1 Hvy. Weapon team of 2 H@rthg!r and Leader; possibly supported by FleshEaters)

A single fireteam of these lizardmen took down half my mission team last night in two rounds! Their tech is advanced compared to the Commonwealth's, allowing cordless man-portable energy weapons.

:Transmission ends]

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Xenoform Alert - Aquarii Wyrm

[Transmission begins:

Following the return of the surviviors of the investigatory team dispatched to Iota Aquarii c to check into the lapse of communications with the University archaeological team there, the following previously unknown xenoform has been identified.  Dubbed an Aquarii Wyrm this xenoform is dangerous and reacted to the mission team in a hostile manner.  The total loss of the administration and dig staff at the Iota Aquarii c Archaeological Site has been attributed, in part, to their presence.

Since that time, several other specimens has been located in differing stellar systems where contact lapse with the associated local outpost has ultimately resulted in loss of those staff and facilities.

Should you encounter such a xenoform, shelter in place and alert the authorities!

Aquarii Wyrm - artist's approximation

Based on detailed debriefings of the surviving members of the free-lance investigatory mission team that encountered them on Iota Aquarii c the following stats have been worked up for this creature:

  • AC 13, HD 3d6+1, THB +3, ATT 8 tentacles, MR 9, ST 16+, MV 6, SPC Paralyzing Chemical (touch), XP 90

An Aquarii Wyrm is a 3 meter (10-foot) long nocturnal or subterranean scavenger that looks like a cross between a gigantic green cutworm and a cephalopod, with eight slimy tentacles arranged in a ring around its mouth. Though they appear to subsist primarily by scavenging carrion and other refuse, they will eat fresh meat when they can get it — they also lay eggs in corpses so their larvae have a ready supply of food when newly hatched.

An Aquarii Wyrm's bite is weak (1d3), so it's primary attack is its tentacles. The sticky slime that coats its tentacles contains a fast-acting paralytic agent that paralyzes any creature touched that fails a Brawn-modified Saving Throw. The Aquarii Wyrm then drags the paralyzed prey away to eat leisurely.

Aquarii Wyrms move quickly and can climb nearly any surface without difficulty, even upside down on a structure's ceilings. They appear to have cognitive capacity comparable to Earth's insects, and therefore Aquarii Crawlers can't be tamed or bargained with.

Sorry for the delay in getting this posted but until last night my players hadn't yet encountered my wee beastie and as they reference my site during play I didn't want to spoil the surprise!

:Transmission ends]

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Putting A Good Face On Things

[Transmission begins:

This week's entry is another re-posting. Regretfully I don't remember where it was that I found this, but given that I couldn't find it again, I suspect I picked it up in Brave Halfling Publishing's old forums formerly located at Nor have I been able to track down the author based on the name given is said forums, namely: Stibbons. If you see this and would like a proper author's credit please let me know in the comments.

Every mission team needs a "face-man," the smooth-talking front on the socially disagreeable or hard-bitten membership composing most mission teams. This front-man or woman should be charming and social adept to keep the clientele happy and out of the more serious and determined members of the team's way.  Here's my take based on the idea originally presented by Stibbons.

Frequently the best mission teams have a member whose primary purpose is to interact with and deal with the prospective patrons of that mission team while shielding those potential employers from the "rougher" edges of the team, you know, the big-mouthed braggarts, seeming psychopaths, distracted academics and social miscreants who job it is the get the actual mission work done. This is not to say that these 'front-persons' aren't sometimes just as knowledgeable or dangerous as the rest of the mission team, just that they are better at concealing it from prospective clientele.


Image credit: lian-blackdream via deviantart

A good negotiator should be polite, well-mannered and comfortable in formal clothing. A good appearance is important to a good first impression and missions team have been known to either sink or swim based on only their front-person's abilities. A high Charisma (CHR) is a plus!

A Negotiator's skills consist of the following:

  • Etiquette (BRN): This is the same as the Robot Program ‘Etiquette’ found in the X-PLORERS rule book, page 14.
  • Lie (CHR): The ability to lie convincingly. The more outrageous the lie more difficult it is to believe, the referee can apply a suitable penalty, but conversely some props or forged proof can improve a lie's chance at succeeding, start waving those important looking (but fake) papers around. This skill is also used when trying to detect when someone is lying to you. Obviously you need to be able to speak the local language in order to be able to lie in it.
  • Persuade (CHR): One of the primary arts of the Negotiator is to talk his target around to his way of thinking. Persuade is the skill the negotiator uses to get an alien to sign on the dotted line, to put down that nasty looking ray gun or to give them a lift to the nearest starport. It can be used to talk someone out of a fear-striken panic or a beserker rage or to extract useful information from them. Obviously if an alien is hostile there will be a penalty, but a befriended alien might be more ameanable. Again you have to speak an alien's language (or it yours) before you can persade them of anything.
    In space combat the crew can choose to negotiate each round. Before initiative is thrown the Negotiator can contact their attackers and use his Lie or Persuade skill to prevent conflict. The skill roll must be made for each hostile ship. The Negotiator can add bonuses to his skill roll (up to +4), but they are deducted from the players' initiative roll for that combat round, so he'd better have a pretty convincing story, argument or threat ready. Of course if the players decide to blow the opposition into small pieces of green goo from the start then all the Negotiator can do during a battle is hang on and hope for the best.
  • An elective skill selected from any of the other classes available in the game.

Of course, if a Negotiator has an elective skill that is applicable in space combat he or she could fill that role.

Next up, a new alien creature - unless you spend a lot of time in dungeons, in which case you will no doubt recognize our creepy-crawler.

:Transmission ends]

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Introducing the Espionteur

[Transmission begins:

Much as in the case of the Physician class, this class, whose skill-set is taken directly from the existing rules, is meant to fill a hole created by my redefining of the Scout into the Spacer. When I did that, I removed the established thief, er, rogue class and associated skill-set from the table. To correct this situation I present my replacement, a professional break-and-enterer, sometimes-for-hire, the Espionteur...

In the course of executing their mission objectives a missions team will frequently need access to areas normally considered restricted, which is fine when your employer grants the team the necessary access, but what about when they haven't or the mission actually has the team working against such restrictions? Enter the Espionteur, whose specialty is getting into places that others want sophonts kept out of!


Image source ConceptArt.Org

Under the right conditions, and let's face it - almost every mission presents these kinds of conditions - an expert Espionteur can be worth his weight in platinum. Bypassing security systems (including automated defenses and traps), opening locked doors, drawers and vaults and releasing restricted computer access are just a few of the services an Espionteur provides to a mission team. Including an Espionteur won't remove all the difficulties of a mission, but their do make life easier for the mission team that does!

An Espionteur's skills consist of the following:

  • Intrusion (BRN): This is the same as the Scout Skill 'Security' found in the X-PLORERS rule book, page 8.
  • Sleight of Hand (QKN): This is the same as the Scout Skill 'Sleight of Hand' found in the X-PLORERS rule book, page 8.
  • Stealth (QKN): This is the same as the Scout Skill 'Stealth' found in the X-PLORERS rule book, page 8.
  • An elective skill selected from any of the other classes available in the game.

Image source Writeups.Org
Yes, it's true, I invented the word Espionteur.  I wanted something suggestive of spying (espionage) and other elicit activities (say, saboteur) without coming right out and saying 'Thief' so, I mashed those two terms together and came up with Espionteur.  Gets the job done and I like it.

Up next, another new class, borrowed by a forum post by Stibbons.

:Transmission ends]

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Introducing the Psionicist

[Transmission begins:

This WAS supposed to get up yesterday; the plans of mice and men, no?  The inclusion of psionics in the X-PLORERS rpg is great, something I always felt was missing from STAR FRONTIERS and certain other sci-fi games. But for the kind of game I'm looking to run handing them out as an additional benefit to every character that qualifies puts the wrong emphasis on those abilities. Once - in a game context, of course - psionic abilities are discovered to be real, the effort and focus to first develop and then grow those abilities would leave, in my mind at least, little time for other things like pursuing an unrelated career. So I see the psionic character as a class unto itself.

Psionically gifted individuals (any character with a Charisma [CHR] of 13 or greater should consult page 32 of the Brave Halfling Publishing core book for rules to determine if your character is actually psionic) may receive training at either governmental or civic facilities. Commonwealth training is tuition-free  but requires the character submit to a manditory term of Commonwealth Service that still confers full citizenship and the political franchise at it's fulfillment.  Additionally, Telepaths in Commonweaslth Service are automatically bonded upon completion of their duty term.  Civic institutions may require study of the character's ability or contract work on behalf of that facility in addition to their tuition.  Tuitions can frequently be paid for by a work-study program.


Image source XCOM

A trained Psionicist can be an incredibly useful asset to any mission team, whether its enhanced physical performance of Awareness or remote manipulation of Telekinesis or even the unreliable insight that can be gained by Visions.  Their para-normal abilities can level the playing field or even provide a definite advantage to a team on the most difficult missions.

A Psionicist's initial skill is...

  • Determined randomly according to the Psionics and Other Weirdness chapter of the X-PLORERS rules.
  • In addition the Psionicist may select an elective skill from any of the other classes available in the game.
  • At Level 5 a second psionic ability is determined, either randomly as with the character's initial ability or in co-operation with the GM based on that character's history within the campaign.

A Psionicist doesn't have quite the same repertoire of skills as their more mundane counterparts but having access to their psionic abilities can make them more versatile.

Next up, another optional class!

:Transmission ends]

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Uplifted Gorillas

[Transmission begins:

Imagine my surprise, when not one of my players was interested in using any of the various alien species I'd already outlined for the campaign. So I had to come up with something else right quick. It goes without saying that this new species now comprises more than half my current crew...

Image credit: ScaryBoy via Blogger

Commonwealth law bans the use of humanity's understanding of genetics and the basis of cognitive functions to "raise to an artificial state of sentience, attained by design rather than by the natural course, non-sentient life of any stripe". So the 'uplift' program discovered on Kappa Trianguli d with a sustainable uplifted gorilla population was without legal precedent. Fortunately for the uplifted gorillas the Commonwealth Parliament voted that, unlike the scientists who'd created them, the new sophonts weren't liable under the law and further granted them full status as fellow Terran sapients. The problem has been getting acceptance from the general populace. The truth is most humans are frightened of the hulking Great Apes, being naturally intimidated by their fearsome countenances and powerfully frames. Many humans have done their best to work alongside their new companions, but even in the best cases there is still the unspoken knowledge between the two species that the uplifted gorillas are unnatural.

Uplifted gorillas cannot be Psionicists. Uplifted gorillas cannot swim due to their lack of body fat and almost all suffer some degree of fear of deep water. Unfortunately, uplifted gorillas are subject to prejudice in Commonwealth space as they are the result of illegal experimentation.

Attribute Adjustments
Uplifted gorillas are physically very powerful, receiving a +2 bonus to BRW. Prejudice in Commonwealth space makes them somewhat surly and unfriendly to other sapients; as a result their CHR suffers a -2 penalty.

Uplifted gorillas may brachiate at their normal speed, or may increase their speed by +2 meters per turn by walking on all fours (Knucklewalking) Uplifted gorillas have twice the reach of humans. Despite the prejudice they experience, uplifted gorillas have full rights and privileges under Commonwealth law. An uplifted gorilla hits or bites in unarmed melee for 1d6 damage.

And here's the Uplifted Gorillas as NPCs.  Please note that I've added MR (Morale) to my NPC listings; this and the NPC Reaction Table were lifted straight out of Basic and Expert D&D.

Uplifted Gorillas (NPC)
AC 14, HD 4d6, THB +4, ATT by weapon or 1d6 Punch or Bite, MR 8, ST 15, MV 4, SPC Optional Movement (Brachiatation at normal speed, Knucklewalk at +2), XP 180

Image credit Rubbish Monkey via Art Is Good

Up next, one of my optional classes.

:Transmission ends]

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Déjà View

[Transmission begins:

Activity here has fallen off due to an increased workload caused by the Great 'Windows XP Expiration', whose deadline hurtles toward us even now. But it's been too long without a post, so I'll hit this one out despite the fact that I'd originally planned on posting it later. As promised though this one does reveal some of the workings of my game universe.

Please note that this item is not written by me; I'd like to thank +Steve Zieser and +John Adams for their kind permission to allow me to re-host Steve's article.

Spacefaring in the Reaches: Warpjacking
Image credit Seth Pritchard via

In the storied history of the Reaches, multiple methods for creating the space "warp" that allows a spaceship propel itself hundreds of parsecs through the void in the space of a thought have been invented. The most popular and trusted method, though, has been the Continuous Magnetotron Spin Drive, a design which drives the tiniest space fighters to the most gargantuan robotic freighters that ply the spacelanes.
The use of the drive is simple. A starship sets its course to its destination. The power plant of the vessel then begins a slow transfer to power to the drive core, which begins to "spin up" the drive itself. (Note: No parts of the drive actually spin; "spin" is a term used by warp physicists to explain the motion of space/time generated by the drive) When the drive accumulates enough energy and spin, a warp in space in generated and the ship is carried along by its "wake" to the destination point, where the warp dissipates.
The warp in space that a CMS drive creates extends in a sphere for several meters around the jumping ship. Clever and disreputable pilots can take advantage of this by bringing in their much smaller vessel into a sensor blindspot within this zone while the jumping ship is spinning up its drive. Then, the smaller "warpjacker" opens the accumulators in his own CMS drive, but puts no power into it from his power plant. The warping space around the "host" vessel causes the drive in the smaller ship to spin up. Both ships enter warp. Because warp physics maintains that a smaller warp field cannot exist within a larger, the smaller field is "pushed "out of the larger field, allowing the smaller ship to emerge from warp at a completely different destination than the host vessel.
Warp jacking is a plague to large shipping companies and independent operators alike, and carries heavy criminal penalties throughout the Reaches. Without careful monitoring of the power input during spin up, these ships may take on warp jacking ships and end up using so much power that the host vessel exits warp light days or light years away from its destination with a depleted power core. This makes warp jacking a favorite tactic of pirates preying on large, automated freighters. The pirate warp jacks a large freighter and then later backtracks its course to pick off the helpless prize. Because of this, large ships often equip themselves with multiple sensors and gun ports to deter this type of action.
A pilot attempting to warpjack a ship must be piloting a craft at least 2 size classes smaller. The pilot makes an opposed roll with the Sensor operator of the larger ship using the Computers skill. If the pilot wins, he may warpjack the larger ship to the destination of his choice. If the Sensor operator wins, the pilot making the attempt is detected and a combat immediately ensues. Start this combat with the warpjacker 1 range band away.
Up next, a new, campaign-specific PC race.

:Transmission ends]

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Aliens as Player Character Options

[Transmission begins:

Eek!  It's a MEME!

X-PLORERS, as written, is a human centric game. There is no insight within the rules into the author's thinking about how players can use intelligent aliens to create characters. In fact, of the three intelligent alien species detailed in the rules there no information for using those species beyond being NPC opponents for the player characters (this count doesn't include the Greys, who got their own chapter [Chapter X] but are not available in the free version of the game). While Mr. Bezio did comment (final entry in the topic-chain) in the X-PLORERS Yahoo Group that he preferred the race, or in this case species, as class idea from earlier RPGs for aliens. Those of you who have read my other blog should be well aware that, for Fantasy roleplaying, I’m in agreement. Not so when playing science fiction games.

Surprised? The primary difference is the built-in conceit of most Fantasy roleplaying games that humans are the best of all races, so, it follows that other races are evaluated against humans. Race as class becomes about how humans perceive the other races, not how they are seen from their own perspective. Not so in the case of most science fiction. Human explorers in many science fiction works encounter species stronger and/or faster and/or more intelligent than themselves. So the mechanic that earlier fantasy RPGs relied upon is no longer valid. Additionally the restrictiveness of race as class is more keenly felt in a science fiction setting; if all Gygaxians are soldiers, how did they get into space for the other species to encounter them? For that matter how have they developed weapons beyond, say, chipped flint knives? That isn’t to say that every species must include every class, the peace-loving Harmonians well might not have any members of the Trooper class in their species. Just don’t expect them to put up a good fight when they’re invaded by the Fascistians!

So, species as class won’t cut it for a playable alien species.  Looks like I’m left to my own devices when it comes to creating intelligent alien characters. Lucky for me, far more creative-types have already addressed the problem.  The work of Mike D., Brutorz Bill and Eli A. have blazed that particular trail (part of why most of their blogs are also linked to, over on the right).  Mike D. turned out some alien species for a defunct project he called ‘Boarding Action,’ and Will and Eli borrowed what he’d done with the races to make their own.

Their approach springs more from the D20 school than the old-school as it uses racial adjustment of the character's attributes as a key feature, but I don't feel that this is incompatible with X-PLORERS given ascending armor classes are also used.  Restrictions and Bonuses are also used to further define a species.

As examples the following links take you to a couple of species created by Brutorz Bill and Eli, specifically the Gunkers and the Iskabob.  Both species are active in the Solterran Commonwealth and available as player characters in my campaign.  The links are followed by an alien species of my own, nothing ground breaking I assure you.




Image credit: Ryan Downing on

Arakelians are one of the oldest space-faring species active in the Milky Way galaxy and have seen the rise and fall of several more dominant species including the Lamians.  Arakelians are bright and engaging and spend much of their time in pursuit of music, dance and other artistic expressions.  They have great admiration for all objects of art as well as any beautifully crafted item regardless of its functionality; a well made weapon appeals to an Arakelian as much as any painting or sculpture.

To humans your typical adult Arakelian looks remarkably like an orangey-skinned twelve-year old child, in terms of height and build. Gender destinctions can be hard to make as male and female Arakelians are all, by human standards, 'beautiful' of facial features; adding to the confusion is the fact that both genders wear their hair long and braid parts or all of it and adorn themselves with jewelry, ribbons or feathers and such.  Other gender cues tend to be minimal, for example male Arakelians lack facial hair.

All Arakelians are able psionics and their abilty to see into the future seems to have had much to do with their success as a culture.  While all Arakelians are able conbatants and can learn any fighting-related skills none of them devote themselves to the arts or disciplines of war.  With their long lifespans, the oldest among them are almost two millenia old, Arakelians prefer to wait out most conflicts or if forced into violence seem to have a preternatural sense of how to inflict the most pain for the least amount of damage.

Arakelians may not advance as a Trooper and suffer a -1 adjustment to their dice rolls for hit points when generated and advancing levels.

Attribute Adjustments
Arakelians are somewhat frail and certainly not as strong as a typical human and so must take a -2 penalty to BRW.  They gain a +2 to CHR for their charming personalities and their grace of physical movement earns them a +1 to QKN.

All Arakelians have the psionic abilities of Telekinesis and Visions.

Example Names
Averoigneda, Hallani, Lothlori, Narnina, Tarabithia

An additional resource for player characters options is the Alien & Robot Class Design document available from Brave Halfling Publishing.

Up next, some insights into my campaign setting!

:Transmission ends]

Friday, February 28, 2014

Meet The Physician

[Transmission begins:

One of the biggest changes I made was removing the Medicine skill from the Scientist class, which means other than robots with the Medicine skill and natural healing the characters were in trouble if they were damaged...

In the interests of full disclosure I have to inform you that this class owes a great deal to the version posted by John Adams in the 'Appendix N X-plorers' thread the DCC RPG Third Party Publishers forum over at, as does my Trooper class.  That thread can be found here.


Image Source

Physicians are an important part of of mission teams that see a lot of combat, and really what mission team doesn't.  Trained in healing both the body and the mind, Physicians keep other mission team members on their feet and ready for action.  Their expertise can also come in handy on jobs dealing with disease outbreaks, biological unknowns and disaster relief.

A Physician's skills include:

  • Doctoring (BRN) this skill covers the Physician’s ability to detect, monitor, diagnose and treat diseases and heal injuries. It also includes such areas as pharmacology, surgery and operating medical equipment.

  • First Aid (BRN) this skill covers the character's ability to staunch bleeding, splint broken limbs, reduce the effects of shock, perform CPR and other life-saving techniques, stabilizing a wounded or injured character until proper medical attention can be provided.

  • Psychology (BRN) this skill covers the Physician’s ability to detect, monitor, diagnose and treat mental disorders, diseases and tramas.

  • An elective skill selected from any of the other classes available in the game.

I'll also be using John's rules for the effects of a Physician's Skill Checks (SC) with the following changes, all healing dice are a d6 (as this is what all classes use for their hit die types).  Otherwise it all works as John has laid out.

Image Source

So that's the base classes for my X-PLORERS revision.  I have ideas for others but I want to take a break from the classes and cover some other topics.  Aliens, supplemental rules for vehicles, articles about my universe, methods of mapping, stuff like that.  But you should expect things around here to slow down some now that I gotten these out of the way.

Up next: I'm thinking about alien species in X-PLORERS.

:Transmission ends]

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Meet The Trooper

[Transmission begins:

The Soldier class was actually the one class that was pretty much dead-on from the start; the only real issue was that all Soldiers were clearly from the same service branch – the Infantry. I wanted my players to be able to create a military aviator, or a driver from the mechanized cavalry, or an Infantry medic if they wanted to, so I put together the Trooper class for my revision of X-PLORERS.


Image Source

Troopers, whether they are ground pounders, armored cav or espatiers, are the muscle of modern society. They are trained to fight and they do it well; this is reflected in the fact that two of their class ‘skills’ are actually advancing modifications to a the character’s combat rolls. Military aviators should cross-train in the Astronautics skill, tank or APC operators in the Heavy Equipment skill, medics in the First Aid skill and espatiers in the Zero-G skill but otherwise have fun.

The skills for a Trooper character are:

  • Hand-to-Hand (I renamed this because soldiers aren't taught any particular form of martial art, rather they are taught key moves from several different syles) is the same as the Soldier Skill ‘Martial Arts’ found in the X-PLORERS rule book, page 7. It also applies to knife-fighting.

  • Marksman is the same as the Soldier Skill ‘Weapon Specialist’ found in the X-PLORERS rule book, page 7.  However, it applies to all ranged attacks made by the character.

  • Soldiering: Skill encompassing any ability common to soldiers. Examples include: boarding/repelling actions, small unit tactics, demolitions, survival training, use and maintenance of various weapons and armors, etc.

  • An elective skill selected from any of the other classes available in the game.

Additionally all Troopers receive a +1 on all their dice rolls for hit points when created and when leveling (they should be at least as tough as colonists, no? [see page 27 of the X-PLORERS rule book]).

Image Source

While we're on the subject, can I just say how much I love the Critical Hits idea presented in this game? It really re-enforces the original thinking behind hit points, not that they represent damage to a character but rather the character's ability to endure the stresses of combat until, finally, they are no longer able to avoid the inevitable and fall to a genuine wound. I like it so much that I'm toying with the idea of renaming Hit Points to Endurance or Stress Points to better reflect this.

So that's all of the original classes revised. You're probably thinking I ended up creating some skill holes when compared to the original classes and you're right I did. Medicine in particular, but I'll address that next time!

Up next: The new Physician class.

:Transmission ends]

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Meet The Spacer

[Transmission begins:

The Scout class was another example of the puzzling skill spread. Basically a thief rogue with vehicle skills. For me the scout has always been about the space explorer in sci-fi, and to explore space you need to be able to travel through it. So for my revision of X-PLORERS I re-made the Scout as the Spacer, the class essential for space travel.


Image Source

Spacers can be important members of any mission team and their spacecraft skills are essential if the team has access to their own spacecraft.  Additional vehicle skills and some overlap with the Technician class keeps the Scout from becoming a niche class.

The skills for a Spacer character are:

  • Astronomy (BRN) is the study of space and the objects found in it and provides an understanding of the formation and function of nuclear stellar furnaces, nebulae, black holes, and even space-time itself.  Successful use of this skill can locate a lost spacecraft, analyze an unknown phenomenon, plot a warp jump, determine how long a star has before going nova, the hazard presented by asteroids to shipping lanes, plot gravitational disruptions.  If it affects space-time or travel through it Astronomy can unravel the details.

  • Astronautics (BRN) covers the knowledge necessary to operate and repair aerospace vehicles, covering everything from simple light airplanes to complex spacecraft and their shuttles.  Successful skill checks allow for orbital or docking maneuvers, stopping a tumble, bypassing burnt out power relays, restarting reactors.

  • Zero-G (QKN) represents a character’s ability to compensate for the difficulties of moving and working in a zero- or micro-gravity environment.  Skill checks are required for EVAs, overcoming zero-gee sickness, recovering from impacts or spins, and using rocketpacks for mobility.

  • An elective skill selected from any of the other classes available in the game.

Image Source

Up next, the Trooper (revised Soldier) class.

:Transmission ends]

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Meet The Scientist

[Transmission begins:

The next few posts are going to come rather quickly, just so you know. The Scientist class was one of the classes with a puzzling skill spread to me. Why would a Scientist be likely to have hacker-like Computer skills? I work with a number of scientists and engineers at my job and aside from one or two Linux enthusiasts most of the scientists have minimal computer literacy, some performing tasks by rote even. The engineers are much savvier about computers. I attribute this to the scientists' incredible focus on their chosen areas of expertise myself. So I have tried to re-make the Scientist into a well-rounded scholar and investigator.


Image Source
Scientists are the brains of any X-PLORERS mission team.  They are the ones to analyze the samples, piece together the disparate bits and deduce the dangers from the variform clues.  If you need to know what something is made from or what dangers a new lifeform presents, or how that anomaly is impacting the local space-time, the Scientist is the one to ask.

The skills for a Scientist character are:

  • Chemistry (BRN) is the science of material things and can determine the makeup of alloys, the class of an animal venom, the properties of a new metal or plant extract, detect new elements, etc.  Successful use of use of this skill can determine the particular effects of any aggregate compound on other materials, identify the components and elements of any such compound's make up (within the limits of current scientific knowledge) and classify new elements and their likely effects.

  • Mathematics (BRN) is the universal language, it is true that while the base numbering system might be different, it is also true that the same mathematical problems have to be solved for any intelligent species to reach space and then the stars.  Additionally, a solid understanding of mathematics is necessary to understand and use the other physical sciences.  The Mathematics skill covers every aspect of using numbers to figure out and decipher the universe: algebra, arithmetic, calculus, differential equations, geometry, probability, trigonometry, and so on.

  • Physics (BRN) is the study of physical reality and the rules that govern it. An understanding of physics can determine the strength of gravity on a new planet; determine what local materials would best be suited to the construction of a new building, the power of a laser or the feasibility of an aerospace design.  Successful rolls against this skill can design a spacecraft, determine the chances of an avalanche occurring on a particular mountain or what optics are best for a new laser. If you need to know how much stress it can take before collapse, how matter is put together, or how to blow it up, Physics is the science for you!

  • An elective skill selected from any of the other classes available in the game.

Image Source
Up next, the Spacer (revised Scout) class.

:Transmission ends]

Monday, February 24, 2014

Meet The Engineer

[Transmission begins:

Had hoped to have this up yesterday, c'est la vie. A lot of my thinking about the Technician class has already been touched on in the last post, but with the change in skills I decided that a new name was required...  Also, if you still want the Engineer to be able to operate specialized vehicles just have them take the Heavy Equipment skill as their elective. Dedicated hackers, on the other hand, should take the Intrusion skill.

Image Source

Engineers are responsible for the continued operation of modern society; whether they work on cell relay towers, in server rooms, the repair department of your local Rudy’s Robotics store or in the control room of a fission reactor. They keep complex technology operating properly or can circumvent its proper operation. If it uses power and is more complex than a light switch a engineer can keep it running, hack it or sabotage it. Clearly no mission team is complete without at least one Engineer.

The skills for a Engineer character are:

  • Engineering (BRN) is the Engineer’s ability to design, create, repair, understand, and operate any type of device or technology (including alien devices and technologies).

  • Power Systems (BRN) represents the Engineer's understanding of the various power generation techniques and delivery methods.

  • Programming (BRN) is the Engineer’s ability to craft computer code; from simple spreadsheet macros to sophisticated heuristic AI routines, as well as decipher existing code for bugs or deliberate malicious intent.

  • An elective skill selected from any of the other classes available in the game.

Image Source
Up next, the revised Scientist class.

:Transmission ends]

Friday, February 21, 2014

No More Gimmicky Titles...Thinking On Skills

[Transmission begins:

I know that the subject of skills can be a bit of a sore subject with members of the OSR and I could do away with them altogether by allowing a character to make a Saving Throw (ST) modified by the appropriate Attribute if the task at hand fell within their class' purview. But I feel that too leads to over-capable characters. Besides I like the use of skills in a Sci Fi context. Sci Fi still has it's archetypal characters or else classes wouldn't make much sense. But while Han Solo, Captian Apollo and Luke Skywalker are all considered pilots, but it that their defining trait? I don't believe so. Han is a scoundrel, piloting the Millennium Falcon is something he can do; likewise Apollo is a soldier and Skywalker a Jedi like his father before him. So character class is about who you are, skills are about what you can do. Spock may be a Scientist but he can still get under a console to effect repairs as well as any Engineer (would you believe I couldn't find a single picture of that? Come on, internetz!  Balance of Terror for crying out loud!).

Image Source

So, I want skills in my X-PLORERS game; just not the skills defined in the original game (again, not a criticism just my choice). I started out by re-evaluating the skills that the author set up looking for a way to redefine the classes. So I'm looking to simplify the skills while still keeping their numbers down; I've restricted myself to three role-defining skills per class remember? So I started trying to break the skills down into their broadest but simplest components. If a Technician has Computer and Mechanics skill does he also need Robotics as a separate skill? A robot, after all is a mechanical system operated by a computer.

Likewise, are others of these skills needed, like the vehicle skill. I have a hard time rationalizing that only a technician can operate a vehicle. A jet fighter sure, but a motorcycle, ground car or even a big rig? Not so much. So I'm wondering if operating a vehicle  should even be a skill, except in the cases of specialized and usually military vehicles. Of course, this exception would include spacecraft as well. But otherwise make it into an ‘everyman’ ability; just make a Quickness (QKN)-based Saving Throw (ST) to keep a vehicle under control when performing maneuvers at high-speeds, or other risky actions like chases and so on. Computers also are so ubiquitous that usage need not even an issue.  Whether the character is searching for and retrieving files, running existing programs such as spreadsheets or word processors, or even trying to operate avionics or other detectors. We only care about when a character is attempting to do something outside the ordinary, like hacking a system or re-programming a computer and that would need the appropriate skill.

My initial attempts to reduce class skills to their simplest level resulted in a veritable explosion of the same, for example for the Technician class I ended up with Computers, Electronics, Mechanical and Power Systems.  That's too many skills in any case.  Then I started to think about how the engineers at work do their jobs.  Engineers cover a lot more ground than one might suppose, going from circuit board design (electronics) to phosphorus formulations (chemistry) to improvising fixture assemblies (mechanics) and coding spectrometers in Excel using a USB web-cam as their source (programming), building components and assembling them into infrared motion detectors and then using them in applications that can tell the difference between a live person and hot machinery, "presence sensing" they called it (a bit of all of the above).

I realized instead of breaking down the various skill areas by their technical distinctions I needed to be thinking about the functions the class was responsible for. So for the Technician I decided a name change was in order and it became the Engineer and that became their defining skill. Engineering, in this case, is understood to be the ability to design and build (and repair) technological devices to accomplish specific ends; whether it's lifting a load (rope and pulley), damaging an opponent at range (gun), digital information management (computer) or lifting men and equipment into space (rocket) including any required sub-fields of knowledge such as Electronics or Mechanics. Considering I see guys do this in real life all the time, it's not as big of a stretch as it might seem. I broke out two sub-areas to create the three total skills but since their application is different from the design, building or repair of technological devices I felt that their separation made logical sense.

Okay, I'm pretty sure this is getting boring and I'm feeling like if I go on I'll end up walking you through every decision and thought process I had while chasing this particular problem. If you come back later I'll be posting my versions of the base classes plus one.  Once you've seen them, if you have any specific questions about my thinking for a particular class feel free to ask them in the comments and I'll do my best to answer them.

Up next: The first of my revised classes, the Engineer.

:Transmission ends]

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Free and Clear to Astrogate...

[Transmission begins:

Image Source
I get that the classes in X-PLORERS seek to cram the greatest capability into the least number of classes, but I find the original classes to be too capable in regards to their function and sometimes puzzling in their skill spread. This is why, as mentioned before, I am revising the character classes from X-PLORERS; also I’m looking for my grand sci-fi epic to allow players more choice and a little customization.

Let's start by looking at the basics of each class; every class provides a character with four skills representative of their area of expertise. Each of these four skills also provides a starting target number that the player rolls a d20 against looking to equal or exceed that target number to determine if the character is successful when using that skill. The target numbers are a spread over the four skills, ranked from 13+ (or better) for the best skill to 16+ for the worst; if you're interested in the math that represent a success range of from 40% for the strongest skill down to 25% for the weakest. While one could presume that skills that start at a higher target number represent a more difficult skill, I don’t believe this is the case.

To see what I mean let's compare the two skills that overlap across classes, Pilot and Computers. Pilot is the same (14+) for both Scout and Technician and so doesn't reveal anything useful to us. However, Computers is different for the Scientist (15+) and the Technician (13+) even though the skill for Technicians represent the ability to perform more and, in my mind, more difficult tasks. The rules state: “This is the same as the Scientist Skill, except that the Tech can also repair the computer, install new programs, and modify existing ones.” So, even though a Technician can perform all of the same data manipulation and security (hacking) tasks as a Scientist as well as maintenance or repair tasks, parts swapping and modify existing code (programs) as well, the skill is still easier for them. Why is that?

I believe this suggests that the basis of a skill's target number might be more a measure of the character’s expertise, or proficiency, rather than being based on the perceived difficulty of that skill. Presuming (which I like to think of as a portmanteau for presumptuously assuming!) such is the case, my first step in changing up the classes will be to allow the players to assign one each of the initial scores (13+, 14+, 15+ and 16+) to their class skills to determine their individual levels of expertise. In this way one Scientist can be different from another by being better at a common skill.

Then, while pursuing the train of thought above, I stumbled on a forum post by John Adams of Brave Halfling Publishing from the beginning of last year in which he talks about plans for the conversion of X-PLORERS to Goodman Games’ DUNGEON CRAWL CLASSICS (DCC) RPG engine and in outlining his classes he does something I thought was brilliant, to – in his own words – “help reflect the diversity and adaptability of all core X-plorer Team members” he introduced the concept of a ‘bonus skill’, with which the character gets one free multi-classing option. By ‘free’ I mean that there is no extra experience cost associated with the selection, as there is later in play (see the Multiclassing rules in the X-PLORERS rule book, page 10. John also tightened up the skills a bit so I decided to follow his lead.

Inspired by that, each class now gets three class-related skills (and the player distributes the expertise levels 13+, 14+ and 15+ among them as desired) and an Elective Skill of the player’s choice to increase the team’s flexibility. This Elective skill is part of the character’s class and advances along with their other class skills every time they level. However, this Elective skill starts at an expertise level of 16+ for success representing its nature as cross-training or a hobbyist pursuit. This change lets all classes have role-defining common skills but still allows for individualization of a character.

But now I've reduced the number of skills available to allow a class to get it's job done. Considering I already thought that some of the skills are too all-encompassing I might be in trouble... Guess we'll find out!

Up Next: Thinking about skills

:Transmission ends]

Saturday, February 15, 2014

De-Orbit Burn

[Transmission begins:

While it's true that there are several areas of the X-PLORERS rules where I am dissatisfied by the author's choices, it should be noted that this is not meant as criticism by me and is only my own observation of my mental and emotional reaction to the rules as presented.  It should be noted that people have been and are continuing to play X-PLORERS as written since its release without any alteration or additional material and having a lot of fun.

I'll be dealing with each of these areas in turn on this blog, but not today.  Today I'm covering something very cosmetic in terms of the changes made to the rules set. One of the more interesting things the author did in X-PLORERS was to reduce the usual collection of character attributes from the more widely accepted six (Strength, Intelligence, Wisdom Dexterity, Constitution, and Charisma) to just four (Physique, Agility, Intelligence and Presence).

I like that part; my problem is with the names chosen for those attributes.  I just don’t find them to be particularly memorable nor thematic. So my first alteration to X-PLORERS is therefore entirely cosmetic.  I’m renaming those attributes and referring to them in all future posts as Brains (BRN), Brawn (BRW), Quickness (QKN) and Charisma (CHR).  You may be thinking those choices aren't any better and possibly consider them even worse, but they work for me and that’s what counts.

Cosmetic changes, get it?
Up next: Talking about classes

:Tranmission ends]

Lift Off!

Image Source
 [Transmission begins:

I believe that the name of this blog is fitting in several ways, one of which is that it is a metaphor for where I am in my sci-fi gaming. This is, for me and for this post at least, what I mean by the 'edge of explored space.'  I've played a lot of the existing systems and at least read a lot of the ones I haven't played myself. If the published games on the market that have left me unsatisfied represent explored space you see what I'm getting at.  It's time to move into the unknown of unexplored space.

Exploring the unknown always means moving from the known into the unknown. I am not, if that's what your thinking, going to be writing a new RPG from scratch on this blog. I've seen smarter, younger and more educated guys do that and I don't have the time or energy to manage it. In keeping to the idea of moving from explored territory into the unexplored; instead I'm going to try modifying the existing X-PLORERS rules set. No surprise, I'm sure, to readers of my first post. So, perhaps a better title for this post, though less thematic, would have been X-PLORERS Mine.

Though my current plan is to use the X-PLORERS rules set as the basis for an on-going Sci-Fi campaign, I'm going to be making some changes.  In some cases, serious changes. Tinkering with the rules is one of the hallmarks of an old-school game and gamer after all. Many of the changes will be a matter of taste. Beyond that though I'll be borrowing certain sub-systems I like from other OSR games. Morale from B/X D&D, starship construction from STARS WITHOUT NUMBERS, planetary system generation inspired by HULKS & HORRORS are my preliminary thoughts. The end goal is still a rules-light, OSR compatible game that'll let me run the adventures of my dreams.

Up next: Some cosmetic changes to start...

:Transmission ends]

Monday, February 10, 2014

T Minus One

[Transmission begins:

Recently, my oldest nephew and his wife came up from Florida visiting. We spoke in the weeks before his visit and he expressed the desire to get in at least one roleplaying session during that time. Anyone who’s read my other blog probably – and correctly – has gotten the impression that my DUNGEONS & DRAGONS campaign initiative has failed. My plans for D&D hit a serious snag and I was not able to overcome the psychological impediments that resulted. Problem was and remains that I didn't have a really clear, defined vision for D&D; never really did actually. Though I love Sword and Sorcery, the fantasy genre in general has never really attracted me beyond the great fun it provides when playing D&D and I am just left in awe of people who can craft original, thematic and atmospheric worlds for their D&D campaigns that just leave me feeling wholly inadequate when it comes to the craft of worldbuilding. I know I can, and have, faked it and have even done so well, but this time I just really wanted to put together my Blackmoor, or Greyhawk; you know, a campaign for the ages, but it became clear to me that it wasn’t going to happen.

So in the months since I had buried myself back in my sci-fi PC gaming (such as Sundog: Frozen Legacy, Starflight, Master of Orion 2, Sword of the Stars, Endless Space and the Mass Effect series) and science-fiction reading and tried to forget about my silly desire to return to roleplaying. As a youngster I lived on the science fiction novels and anthology collections of Galaxy and Astounding in my local public library. To this day my Kindle remains loaded with Asimov, HeinleinH. Beam Piper, Cordwainer Smith and David Weber. A majority of the material I absorbed during that time were stories from the Golden Age of science fiction, so my preferences tend to run toward rayguns and rockets.  You know, sleek, silver rockets that power their way between worlds on atomic thrust and whose brave crews encounter bizarre aliens that just as soon devour them as look at them.

Still put off by the Fantasy genre, I decided that if I were going to put together a game Science Fiction was what I wanted to run. The problem being that my beloved Golden Age vibe is not well captured by TRAVELLER (which I find that when you run people expect to play TRAVELLER, not some "lame" homebrew setting) nor STAR TREK (love Star Trek but it’s not what I wanted to run) nor STAR WARS. In fact, the only roleplaying game that ever came close to that in terms of feeling was TSR's STAR FRONTIERS. But my history with STAR FRONTIERS is a rocky one; imagine, if you can, the frustration I had trying to sell STAR FRONTIERS to a bunch of TRAVELLER players. Bear in mind in 1982 I was a not a child - I had graduated from high school the year before and had already started down the adult path of so-called gainful employment as my main time sink. The rest of my group, a year or three behind me had no interest in the Golden Age flavor of TSR's initial foray into the sci-fi genre, they wanted TRAVELLER's "hard" take on sci-fi (I know; I pointed out that STAR FRONTIERS' office-building oriented spacecraft were far more "hard" in terms of science than TRAVELLER's aircraft/boat orientation, to no avail). The rules were "for kids" and every element that charmed me was a turn-off for them (especially the aforementioned spacecraft designs!). Sadly it’s even worse today as STAR FRONTIERS, though loved by many, suffers from comparably limited skill selection and under strength combat damage (I had had some hope for a new STAR FRONTIERS-inspired game called FRONTIERSPACE but there been nothing on that front for 5 years now). Despite the fact that my session design had nothing to do with mutants or post-apocalyptic settings I toyed with the idea of running it in either MUTANT FUTURE or the original GAMMA WORLD

In the end, however, I put together an X-PLORERS game. X-PLORERS is a rules-lite, old-school influenced thought experiment in the sci-fi genre released by Dave ‘Grubman’ Bezio, of 101 Days of Savage Worlds fame, in the summer of 2009. I discovered it in the Yahoo group Mr. Bezio set up back when he was writing it. Mr. Bezio has since sold the game to Brave Halfling Publishing and they published a digest-sized Limited Edition Boxed Set and a full-sized book version which is still available from Though additional works (a revision and adventures) were promised there's been nothing further on that front. I still have high hopes that X-PLORERS will get more attention and support in the days to come.

Happily, my one-shot, set in the game’s default ‘United Corporate Nations’ setting was well received and it's reignited my desire to get a regular game going but the session just reminded me about the things regarding that particular game that make me itch for something... else?  More? Don't misunderstand, I really like what Mr. Bezio has done though I have some issues with certain parts of the rules, but as you’ll hopefully see it's nothing I can’t work around...

Wish me luck!

:Transmission ends]