'Barbarism is the natural state of mankind,' the borderer said, still staring somberly at the Cimmerian. 'Civilization is unnatural. It is a whim of circumstance. And barbarism must always ultimately triumph.'

-Robert E. Howard
Beyond The Black River

Wednesday, January 30, 2019

Adventure Wednesday: The d6 Outpost

On the far reaches of the kingdom sits a small fort. Its only purpose is to guard the border and warn of approaching threats from the west. The land is desolate and the soldiers stationed here rely on supplies from the nearest city, some two days hard ride away. This place is isolated and those unlucky enough to be here spend day after day looking out at nothing......

Welcome to Adventure Wednesday! Last week we started Story Seed Tuesday. I decided I should move this to Wednesdays so I could have my efforts to create weekly content more spread out across the week. This is our first Wednesday installment and I already though I would do something a little different. If you like this idea, I will see about including some roll tables with future adventure ideas. As we go forward the blog will end up with a good store house of adventure roll tables to go along with the monsters of Friday's Forgotten Fiends!

Stories about an isolated outpost or ship are common place and work equally well for sci-fi and fantasy. Players can either be stationed there when things start to go wrong, or they could be responding to word of something bad, perhaps the last supply train never returned?

Today I am going to provide a few roll tables that will allow you as the GM to generate a quick plot you can use to build an adventure around. The tables are setting agnostic and should work as well for D&D 5e as they do for The upcoming Expanse RPG by Green Ronin Games.

Step 1: Roll for the outpost type.
1d6 Roll
Result
Goods, Cost Modifier
Number of goods
1
2
3
4
5
6
Guardpost
Gateway
Place of Study
Isolated Community
Trade Outpost
Religious Order
-2, +20%, 3
0, +10%, 2
+2, +10%, 2
0, +20%, 1
0, +10%, 4
0, +20%, 2

Step 2: Make a number of rolls equal to the "Number of Goods" rolled in Step 1. Modify these rolls by the "Goods Modifier".
1d6 Roll +
Goods Modifier
Result
1
2
3
4
5
6
Weapons
Armor
Food
Lodging
Basic Goods
Lore about the Area

Step 3: Determine the environment the outpost exists in. Make sure to note if this is a fantasy or a sci-fi outpost.
1d6 Roll
Location
1
2
3
4
5
6
Edge of Kingdom/Deep Space
Rocky Area/Asteroids
Coast Line/Gas Giant
Forests/Rocky Moon
Deserts/Lagrange Station
Mountains/Class M Planet

Step 4: Determine a basic plot
1d6 Roll
Location
1
2
3
4
5
6
Attacked by Enemy Faction (Military, pirates, etc)
Attacked by Natural Enemy (Wild animals, alien organisms)
Natural Catastrophic Event (Earthquakes, asteroid strikes)
Plague (Disease outbreak, Zombies, Mutations)
Betrayal (Higher up at outpost has sold it out)
Outpost has been taken over in secret (Enemies unknown to the players now control the outpost)

Step 5: How are the players involved?
1d6 Roll
Location
1
2
3
4
5
6
Relief Effort
Stationed at Outpost
Sent to Investigate
Escort to or From Outpost
Evacuation of Outpost
Rescue Mission
Infiltration


Now that we have a few fun tables to roll on, let's generate a few story ideas!
Setting
Type
Goods
Location
What is happening?
How are the characters involved?
Fantasy
Trade Outpost
+20% cost
Weapons, Armor, Lodging, Basic Goods
Edge of the Kingdom
Natural catastrophic event.
Sent to Investigate the cause of the event
Sci-Fi
Religious Order
+0% cost
Basic Goods, Lore about the Area
Asteroid Base
Attacked by a natural enemy
Evacuation
Fantasy
Religious Order
+0% cost
Weapons, Food
Mountains
Attacked by an enemy faction
Members of the order, or hire as guards
Sci-fi
Gateway
+10% cost
Lodging, Lore about Area
Lagrange station
Attacked by an enemy faction
Rescue Mission

There you have it. Four super quick story idea seeds and a set of table to generate a lot more all revolving around an isolated outpost.

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Monday, January 28, 2019

Conan 2d20: Narrative Combat Spends

One of the great parts of Conan and 2d20 is succeeding by measure. The ability to not just succeed but succeed WELL is a narrative gold mine! The base rules have a table of momentum spends for action scenes on pg. 118. A more experienced player with the system will probably be able to look at that table and come up with narrative descriptions for each action and use them to craft a description of their attack. But what about that player with less experience, or one that is shy and has trouble coming up with those things? Below that table is a line that states, "These are in addition to the normal uses of momentum and any others that the players or game master create for themselves."

Like many things in 2d20 they have left it open for us as the players to build upon what they have already done, and so we come to what this article is about: Descriptive combat spends, things like spinning sword slashes, kicks to the chest, shoulder checks and the list goes on and on. So pull up a chair, watch some sword & sorcery movies and read some sword & sorcery books, and lets make up some cool moves for your players to plug into their combat encounters.

We will start with the idea of how we might build some of these from the listed momentum spends and finish off with some ideas that I have come up with that I though would add a lot of narrative depth to your combat encounters.

First up we chain 2 momentum spends together and provide a basic description of what that might actually look like. It should give you a good idea of how you can generate some cool combat narration from the provided list

Chained Momentum Spends
Description
Penetration+Penetration
2m+2m
The sword slashes wildly at the beast before it's keen point is turned and stabbed easily through it's hide.
The razor edge of the sword cuts at the Vanir warrior, finding a weak point in his chain armor
Disarm+Swift Action
2m+2m
Conal deftly kicks the shield from the guards hands before his blade slashes at him.
Called shot+Damage
2m+2m
Sven swings his mighty axes catching the hyperborean square in his unprotected neck, blood gushes from the grievous wound.

Lets take this one step further with some of Howard's own words.....

Chained Momentum Spends
Description
Break Guard+Swift Action
2m+2m
But his return spring was like that of a starving wolf. He was inside the lashing arms and driving his sword deep in the monster's belly....
-REH, Beyond the Black River.
called shot+Penetration
2m+2m
A tall corsair, bounding over the rail, was met in midair by the Cimmerian's great sword, which sheared him cleanly through the torso, so that his body fell one way and his legs another.
--REH, Queen of the Black Coast.
Penetration + Damage
2m+2m
In the interim one of his comrades lifted a broadsword with both hands and hewed through the king's left shoulder-plate, wounding the shoulder beneath. In an instant Conan's cuirass was full of blood.
--REH, Phoenix on the Sword.


Going back to that table on page 118 and our basic momentum spends, we can get an idea of the approximate power of a momentum spend. Items like Disarm and Break Guard cost about 2 points of momentum. We also see my favorite spend, "Penetration". With it we are essentially putting the weapon trait "Piercing" on weapons that do not have it. This should give us a lot of fodder to move forward. Maybe we can add grapple or knockdown to the list? Vicious? Maybe!

I would have no problem adding the following to the table.

Knockdown
2
Gain the knockdown quality on your attack.
Stun
2
Gain the Stun quality on your attack

Some qualities are represented by talents, so we need to make them more expensive for people to use them, or the talents are pointless. For exampple, Killing Strike grants an additional wound for 2 momentum and Blood on Steel provides Vicious 1 for 1 momentum.

Intense
4
If you caused a wound, you may cause another wound.
Does not stack with Killing Strike.
Vicious X
2 R
Each 2M adds 1 point of vicious.
Does not stack with Blood on Steel.
Grapple
2
Gain the grapple quality on your melee attack
Grapple is counted as unarmed


And finally I present a table taking all of these ideas into account. This table builds on what we have in the core rules, adding basic narration seeds to a few basic spends. In addition to these we have used the idea of how chained spends might look together and mixed in our new ideas to come up more creative ways to spend your momentum. I hope you enjoy this idea and it helps bring loads of colorful combat to your table.

Description
Effect
Cost
Shoulder Bash!
Stun
2
Trip and Stab
Knockown+Penetration
+1 Doom to enemies next reaction
5
Kick to the chest
Break Guard+Stun
+1 Doom to enemies next reaction
5
Stab or cut at the joint
Penetration
1R
Recover from glancing blow
Re-roll damage dice
1
Twist blade in the wound
Add Vicious X
2R
Sand in the eyes!
Break Guard
2
Swing through a deadly arc
Secondary Target
2
Pommel strike
+2 damage+Stun
4
Head butt
Stun
2
Cleave the skull
Hit Location+Intense
6
Elbow to the Face
Stun, 1cd
+1 Doom to enemies next reaction
4
Hack and slash
Spend 2m to kill 1 minion.
4
Cleave through armor
Piercing 4
2
Slash/smash/stab
the
head/leg/arm/torso
Choose hit location
2


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Friday, January 25, 2019

Friday's Forgotten Fiends: The Hyperborean Monoceros

Welcome back to another installment of Friday's Forgotten Fiends! Custom monsters for your RPG table feature stat blocks for Conan 2d20 and Dungeons and Dragons 5e as well as VTT tokens!


The "ice age" and it's mega fauna are ripe for inclusion in a setting like the Hyborian Age. They fit so well that they are already common in sword and sorcery and even in the Hyborian Age itself; From mammoths in Conan Exiles and Age of Conan to the saber-tooth tigers written by Howard himself in Beyond the Black River. I am not one to stand back and think, what if.....

This past week Logan of "Rogues In the House" Podcast posted a picture from a facebook group about ice age mega fauna: The Siberian Unicorn. This thing is a great giant rhino the size of a mammoth! How could I not stat it up and bring it to life on the northern planes of Hyperborea or Hyrkania.

Not only am I providing some stats worked up for Conan 2d20, but also for Dungeons and Dragons 5e! So if you have friends who play either, don't forget to point them my way! As always following the stat blocks will be a token for use with your favorite VTT.

His labored breath produced a cloud in front of him. His hands gripped tightly around the wooden shaft and he wondered, not for the first time, why he had come to this frozen hell of Hyperborean tundra. The great beast stood in the ruins of his camp, its cold eyes staring at him, seemingly oblivious to the blood soaked into it's thick coat. The beast snorted, its own white haze billowing from its nostrils. Conal involuntarily took a step back, trying to grip the spear even harder.

Suddenly the great beast lowered it's head and with it, the single monstrous horn protruding from its forehead. The beast's charge shook the earth as it thundered towards the single man. Conal braced himself and, at the last second, avoided the wicked horn, but not the the enormity of the creatures gigantic head, which bashed him aside like a child's doll. With reflexes that only a life long warrior might possesses, he rolled up and struck with the spear. He felt the point resist and then slip deep into the beast just behind the shoulder. With a last mournful cry the great behemoth sunk to the earth motionless.

Conal stood, bloodied and bruised, and scanned the remains of his camp. As he surveyed the destruction his eyes caught movement and as he turned four more of the great shaggy beasts appeared out of the night, the remains of the herd, called by the death cries of one of their own............



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Tuesday, January 22, 2019

Story Seed Tuesday: Suns

Welcome to the first of a new weekly series we are going to try on Starships & Steel, "Story Seed Tuesday".

Whether you play Dungeons and Dragons 5e, Rifts or Traveller I hope you find a story idea in one of these articles.

Starships

Articles like this began to pop-up recently: Sun will Turn Into a Solid Crystal

WOAH. When I first saw these pop-up I was blown away, I'm pretty sure I haven't encountered that in sci-fi, and immediately my mind turned to a small starship on approach to a massive crystal hanging infront of it in the heavens.

  • Did this crystallization cause a civilization to die?
  • Did an advanced species mine the ancient star?
  • Is the crystal integral to the villain's doomsday machine?
  • Is something alive in the giant crystal?
  • Is it a backdrop to a giant orbital station?

Steel

Giant crystalline suns will be hard to beat, but lets keep suns as the theme of the day.

As you move towards the poles of our world the days and nights become increasingly long depending on the time of the year. Far enough north and the darkness is eternal for half of the year. To people who don't understand science this concept on any world is rife with ideas.

  • The yearly darkness is spreading further south.
  • Some dark creature emerges from it's lair to hunt during the darkness.
  • Sorcery is at it's height at this time, the wizard must be stopped.
  • Every year champions are sent north to fight back the darkness.



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Happy Birthday Mr. Howard

Monday, January 21, 2019

The Expanse RPG: VTT Assets!

We are hoping to see a full copy of the Expanse RPG this month (January 2019) as per Update 28. Understandably I am excited to see the final products. Not surprisingly my posts are moving towards the Expanse right now as my excitement builds!

My last post brought us a new Extension for use with Fantasy Grounds and the MoreCore ruleset. Today's post will be a list of VTT assets you can grab for a few bucks to use within Fantasy Grounds to help fuel your Belter, MCRN or UN adventures!

Battlemaps

Tokens

Objects and Props


I found that, although there was a fair number of battlemaps available for sci-fi settings, there was a relatively small amount of tokens for sci-fi. Even less if you want more generic harder sci-fi looking tokens. For your personal games you might be better off combing the Internet for images you can use and the passing them through one of the tools below to generate a token.

These tools will allow you to take basic images and make decent looking tokens for your VTT needs.



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Friday, January 18, 2019

Friday's Forgotten Fiends: The Jungle Crawler

Friday is here and that means another fiend from a time immemorial! Today I am going to introduce you to a giant creepy crawly, something that should make at least one of your players dread the fact they ever entered that jungle.

The Jungle Crawler


In the wild places across the world forgotten by man. In places that grow lush with life, deep jungles and dark forests, things grow large. Things that time has turned it's back on and allowed to thrive against natures best judgement. In these places dragons roam. But in these places things creep and crawl with hundreds of legs, dripping poison and death.

Today I introduce you to the Jungle Crawler, a giant centipede. Will it's pincers slice through your players armor, or will it's venomous tail inject it's death into them? Perhaps their incessant chittering drive your players mad as these things invade their camp in the night?

Here is is The Jungle Crawler in a toughened and minion variety, may they strike terror into your players.




I am also include a couple of tokens that you should be able to resize and use in your favorite VTT. Tokens created with Token Tool 2.0!



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Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Conan the Barbarian: Issue #2 (2019) "The Savage Border"

January 16th 2019 and a new Conan is out! YAY! Some people had mixed things to say about the last issue, however *MOST* people seemed to agree with my high rating of the new book. Can #2 keep the pace? Lets find out!



Writer: Jason Aaron
Artist: Mahmud Asrar
Colorist: Matthew Wilson
Letterer: VC's Travis Lanham
Cover Artist: Esar Ribic

Another interesting entry into the world of Conan. This time Jason takes us across the Black River into the realm of the Picts. This tale is solidly set in the Robert E Howard's world, but again tells a new tale of Conan that fits in right against the original tales told his creator. The art by Mahmud Asrar is again solid, with some exceptional panels thrown in for good measure. You can follow him on Instagram to see what else he is up to. The coloring by Matt Wilson is solid and you should of course follow him over on Instagram as well!

The cover is a great image of Conan in combat with the Picts, Esad Ribic does some awesome work on Conan, a quick search on google brings up an awesome array of Conan art

Coming into the book we have a map of the Hyborian Age with a blood splatter over the Pictish Wilderness letting new readers know where in the world of Conan they are. It is a nice touch for new people less familiar with the story.

I liked the first book but I am still cautiously optimistic before reading an issue. I thought this one to have more dialogue than the first, which gives it a slightly more complex story, but at it's heart it is still a Sword and Sorcery tale. It is also one where we see a lot of Conan being not civilized, being a barbarian.

I again liked this issue and felt it was a pretty strong entry into the Conan story, even if I felt it to be a little wordy at times. Don't get me wrong, this issue still has it's share of blood, combat and wine. There are more panels of Conan kickin' ass than Conan talking.

I am going to drop my art rating by 1/2 of a point, which simply reflects my wish to see more of the AWESOME panels. The panels showing wider areas are generally less detailed, which is common in comics, but i'd rather see them as the awesome panels Mahmud draws. In addition I think I am going to raise the story point by 1/2, because it so neatly fits into Howard's world, without rewriting one of his stories. I am going to leave the rest of the ratings where they are giving us a total of 4.4, which we will call 4.5!

Art:

Story:

Cover:

Sword & Sorcery:


4.5 out of 5 Skulls of My Enemies!

Can't wait for #3!

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Tuesday, January 15, 2019

The Expanse RPG

Just a quick note that I have been working on an MoreCore extension for The Expanse RPG coming out from Green Ronin. If you are interested in the RPG check out their quick start rules.

I won't call it 100% yet, but I can happily call it a version 1.

It features updated graphics to hopefully match the theme of the series as well as a custom character sheet. I have left the MoreCore functionality intact as well. It also includes a module to allow you to have a Churn tracking graphic, an idea I took from the Jolly GMs Conan extension.

I am including a screenshot, and you can of course grab the extension and churn module here and MoreCore here.



If you find anything really weird or totally broken, let me know!

**NOTE: I apparently built this on an old version of the MORECORE system, so if you downloaded this BEFORE this was here, I advice RE-DOWNLOADING it, as it will fix a few issues.

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Monday, January 14, 2019

The Weird West of Robert E. Howard: Old Garfield's Heart.

Continuing my look at the Weird West of Robert E. Howard I thought I would look at a few of the stories in depth. The first I have chosen is probably one of my favorites as well as being my introduction to Howard's work in this genre.

Old Garfield's Heart was first published in Weird Tales in December of 1933 and is generally labelled as a "Horror Story". I am not sure if I agree with that assessment, but I understand why it receives it. Either way it takes place shortly after the end of the Wild West, but for me falls squarely into the "Weird West" genre. The story is about an frontiersman, Old Garfield, that has lived as long as anyone can remember. The story is told through the eyes of an unnamed narrator who believe's the tales told by Old Garfield are nothing more than whims of fancy or tall tales. As I mentioned, the story takes place in a time that post-dates the Wild West by a few years, but it's central themes are from the 1870s.

As the story opens the narrator is waiting for the doctor so he can accompany him to check up on Old Garfield, and engaged in conversation with his grandfather. Despite Old Garfield's injuries, the grandfather doesn't believe he will die. We learn that the Grandfather and Old Garfield had been in a few fights together including fights with the Comanche. During one of these Old Garfield is grievously wounded and a medicine man mysteriously shows up and saves him.

The narrator travels with the doctor to check up on the mysterious Old Garfield. They find him injured, as we have been told, but he is delirious and tells us the story of how "Ghost Man" saved him and made him immortal.

After this the narrator ends up crossing paths with a local bully, Jack Kirby, over an argument about a cow that was bought. The narrator ends up nearly killing Jack, and ends up on an assault charge. The charge isn't nearly good enough for Jack. Once he has recovered he sets out to kill the narrator.

The narrator and Jack have their showdown at Old Garfield's place and we finally learn the truth.

Old Garfield's Heart is a fairly short story at about 3500 words, but in that we get action, adventure, mystery and a sprinkling of magic. The world Howard creates, through descriptions and dialogue, is almost tangible. In my opinion the amount of depth and flavor he achieved is amazing, especially given the amount of time he has to create it.

Robert E. Howard wrote a lot of fantastic stories set both in the modern world, the medieval world and worlds time has forgotten. These are all places of his imagination, perhaps well researched, but still not places he knew first hand. Stories like this are a little different, this world he has near first hand experience with. The setting is his own. The stories and tall tales from the old timers he loved to listen to. The narrator in this story could be Howard, a younger man talking to an old timer about the old days of the frontier.

If you are a fan of Howard's other characters, or if you are new to Howard in general, and are looking to try something new this is a great intro to some of his other works.

The story can be found on Gutenberg Australia at Old Garfield's Heart. I encourage you to take 10 minutes, give it a read and let me know what you think!

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