'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

Corrupt Cliffs

Corrupt Cliffs
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Places of Interest

Tuesday, December 15, 2020

Conan 2d20 on Roll20: Custom Sheets

NEW: Youtube Introduction to the Custom Sheet!

Alright, if you follow me at all, anywhere on social media, you are likely aware I've been working on a Conan 2d20 sheet for Roll20.  The sheet won't be available via the standard channel since it requires the API and there are already two free sheets available directly.  For those of you who expressed interest and wanted something with a little more automation, I still wanted to make this available.

Requirements:    Roll20 Pro Subscription.  No way around it, the sheet uses the API extensively.

Set-up Requirements: Like most Conan games on Roll20 we will need a few roll tables.  

CD for combat dice with the following entries: 1, 2, -, -, 1 + effect, 1+ effect.



HITLOC for hit locations with the following entries: Head, Torso, Right Arm, Left Arm, Right Leg, Left Leg.  These entries need the following weights as well: 2,6,3,3,3,3.



Finally you will require a character named GMPANEL.  This is the Doom pool.  This is the player momentum pool.  The Character sheet makes calls to the API using this object by name.  It must be named this or the sheet will not work.


Basic Game Setup

Ok, now that we know what we need lets walk through the steps.  I have a video detailing these steps here: VIDEO LINK

  1. Copy and paste the HTML code into a game's custom sheet HTML.
  2. Repeat this for the CSS code.
  3. Save these.
  4. Switch to your Game's API input and add a new script, I normally named it Conan.js
  5. Copy and paste the API code here.  
  6. Save it.
  7. Open the game and create the two roll tables
  8. Create the GMPANEL character.
  9. Open the GMPANEL, go to the character sheet and select the GMPANEL tab.
  10. Click Initialize.

The GMPANEL

To make the panel more useful I generally create a token the represents the character and link the tokens bars to doom and momentum.  I also allow the players to see the text on the bars and set the DOOM max to 1, so it always displays a bar with the numbers on showing doom.

Creating a character

!!IMPORTANT!! Anytime you create a new character you need to go to the GMPANEL on that character sheet and click initialize.  This sets up the characters attributes so the API can call them when it needs to.  If you do not do this, the API will likely attempt to get attributes that do not exist, resulting in a crash.

HELP
!help will bring up some basic help and a few API commands you will find useful as GM.

The Code:
I will update the dates on these as I make modifications and release new versions.

Last updated these on May 9, 2021.  I inadvertently broke the combat dice without realizing it.  That is fixed.  Also noted the pay upkeep was not working properly due to sheet workers.  Still has some issues. The main UI for the character sheet has been updated as well (I believe the last update had the original version)

HTML CODE: Updated May 9, 2021
CSS CODE: Updated May 9, 2021
API CODE: Updated May 9, 2021

If you open the code and simply copy and past it as is, it will mostly be fine, but I have found it will append a little snippet of code to the end of the copy and paste.  This doesn't seem to affect the HTML and CSS, but it breaks the API.  After you paste the API into the API window, scroll to the bottom and delete the bad part of the code.


All graphics are hosted on IMGUR.

And one final note.  If you go looking through the code, you will most assuredly find references to things and classes that are no longer used or commented out.  Some things need to get reimplemented still, others need to get removed.  Code cleanup is the least fun part, and so the last thing I do...IF I do it. :)

If you have feedback or ideas of improvement, I would love to hear them, even if I don't use them.
Stay strong!

Remember this isn't the end times, this is humanity working together to save as many lives as we can through a proven methodology for fighting a new virus. Stay Strong.

Till next time, don't forget to Keep it Weird!

Saturday, November 28, 2020

John Carter of Mars for Roll20

 Welcome back to Starships and Steel!  

It has been a little while since the last post, but I want to assure everyone that I am still here and I am still playing and creating my own personal RPG experiences.  Most recently I ran a game of Conan 2d20 and a game of Vaesen at the RPG Alliance Convention (online) up here in Calgary.  It was a solid weekend of gaming, playing in two other games.

I have never been a large fan of the original roll20 Conan sheet. Although functional I always felt it wasn't the best way to go about things, and that combined with its creation during the quickstart rules has directly lead to this John Carter project.

Moving forward to run a Conan 2d20 game for all experience levels I elected to write a new Conan sheet that ended up leveraging the Roll20 API.  This means it is not exactly user friendly, but it is functional (It has not support for Alchemy or Sorcery at the moment) and I will most likely make it available in another format for Pro level Roll20 accounts.

After playing Conan 2d20 the sheet was tweaked and the result left me with, what I think is, a decent framework for 2d20.  Of course in creating this sheet for John Carter I have ripped out all the API functionality, basically the sheet no longer tracks momentum and threat, leaving that to the players and GMs.

Without further pre-amble, below is the top-half of the roll20 sheet.


One of the largest modifications I made to the layout was to favor a sheet that scrolls down the page.  During the convention game of Conan I hosted it was determined it was easier for the players to scroll up and down vs. left and right.  The other largest change I made was simpler and larger button iconography.

As we go over the sheet I will explain it's basic functionality, what it does and what it doesn't do.  We shall start at the top and work our way down the sheet, skipping the top player name box, as it is pretty self explanatory.  

Repeating Fields

If you are new to Rol20, this is something that you will figure out, but I thought I would make a quick note about it.  Below lists of items, such as Core Equipment, Weapons, Talents etc, you will see a plus and a lock.

Clicking the "PLUS" will allow your to add a new entry.  I find that sometimes it has trouble accepting a value, if it does, just try again and it will take it, usually, on the second try.  This is a roll20 quirk.

Clicking on the "LOCK" will unlock the table and allow you to sort or delete items from it.  Clicking "LOCK" again will finalize and relock the table.

Stress & Afflictions

The stress panel is a fairly straight forward affair.  
  • Max stress for each of the three tracks is calculated from the character's stat block.  
  • The two attributes each one effects is listed below its name.
  • Each stress track has a unique color, this is handy to color code the 3 red circles above a roll20 icon for a character and link them appropriately left to right for simple reference.
  • Each track has 5 checkboxes below it to represent the various afflictions.
  • Finally the reset stress button resets all stress tracks to full.

The heart of the sheet: Attributes & Die Roller


This section is broken into two major sections.  On the left is the attributes panel that allows a player to enter their character's attributes and on the right, the rolling interface.  We will focus on the right.  The top 3/4s allows us to choose the attributes, difficulty and dice, and the bottom 1/4 shows us the number of d20s we are rolling.
  1. The first thing you do is click the check's difficulty.  This number will populate below in the step 2 section, "> vs. difficulty".
  2. Next we will pick our two attributes.  Back over on the attributes side we will note there are two buttons an A and a B, click "A" next to your first attribute and "B" for your second.  These will populate and update the Target Number and Focus values for the roll.  Back to the difficulty line we see that after our base difficulty we have a box listed as "+ Harms (Max D5).  This box will populate based on your afflictions and chosen stats.  It may not show all afflictions, ie if you have a difficulty 3 check and have 3 afflictions, it will only show 2 of your afflictions and max out the test at D5.
  3. Choose bonus dice.  4 options are available: Momentum (gem), Threat (skull and crossbones), Luck (gold coin), Other (Question mark). Clicking these will update the total dice we are rolling in the bottom 1/4.  It will max out at 3. Below these is a "Reset Dice" button.  This will clear out any dice you have picked from previous rolls and allow you to start again if you change your mind on how you are buying your dice.
One of the things to note, is that this doesn't actually track your Threat and Momentum, it simply reports what was used in the check roll so you and your players/GM can track it how you please.

Finally once everything is set, clicking roll dice will roll the requested check and output a result to the chat window.
Here we see Johnny has rolled a "Cunning + Might" test, using 2 threat.  His difficulty was 1 and he got a total of 3 listed successes.  NOTE:  Since the result in Roll20 is highlighted you *MUST* hover over it to see the actual result.  Complications and bonus successes are *NOT* added into the result.

This result is actually 5 total successes, giving Johnny 4 momentum.

Talents, Flaws and your Weapons.



The next two portions are pretty self explanatory as well.
  • Flaw gives you a simple place to store your characters flow.
  • Talents:
    • Name: Talent name
    • Grade: Talent grade
    • Circ: Circumstance when the talent becomes useful
    • Eff: The effect the talent has.
    • USE button: No real effect beyond reporting the talent to the chat box to allow others and yourself easier reading of the talent

  • Equipment:
    • Name: Equipment name.
    • Type: Core or non-core equipment.
    • Description: Description of what the item does.
  • Weapons:
    • Name: The weapon name.
    • Type & range: Melee, Near, Away, Threaten
    • Dmg: Base damage listed in Combat Dice.
    • Bonus Damage: Bonus dice to be added via momentum or other factors.
    • Roll Damage Button:  Rolls damage for the weapon and reports it to chat
    • Notes: A place to store effects etc.  Also reported with the weapon's damage roll.
For damage to work properly you will need to set up a roll table named "CD". with the following entries "1","2","-","-","1 + Effect","1 + Effect".  This will allow the character sheet to roll appropriately and report the correct amount of base damage.  You will still need to hover over the result to see any generated effects.
With this result we see it is 2 damage with 1 effect.  The weapon's notes tell us it gains +1 fear on an effect.  

Momentum, Renown, Allies and Luck


The final part of character sheet.  
  • MOMENTUM: This is simply a place to record it.  It is NOT automated in any way.
  • LUCK: Again, simply a record field.  It is NOT automated in any way.
  • Renown: Currently simply a place to keep track of your renown, nothing it updated here at the moment.
  • Experience: A basic field to store you XP.
  • Allies: A basic place to store a list of your allies.

Final thoughts, Momentum and Threat.

This is the first half of the John Carter character sheet, "Character".  A second sheet exists to allow the GM to record The Beasts of Barsoom.  Players will have no reason to use that tab.  I will try and get a blog post written about that sheet as well, but if you understand this sheet, that one will be no problem.

There are a few ways to track momentum.  

The most common way I have seen is with a deck of cards, simply handing out the cards as PCs gain and lose momentum.  This works, but I have found it to be slow.

Another way is to simply record it with a pencil and a piece of paper, which works ok for John Carter of Mars as players maintain their own momentum pool.

The method I am currently favoring is using custom token markers.  Adding a marker set with 6 gems allows a PC to turn momentum on and off as they store it from turn to turn.  This way is fast and simple.

No momentum

Custom Token Set, selecting Momentum

Assigned 3 momentum to be saved till next Turn

Without automation this provides a simply way for players and GMs to track momentum from turn to turn.

As for Threat, the Conan 2d20 sheet this is based on has a GM panel character sheet, which I will probably turn back on simply to give the GM a place to record doom and give them an easy way to report it back to the chat window so the PCs can have feedback on how much threat they have saved up.

Lacking that You can still create an Icon called "THREAT" and choose one of the status bars as your threat bar.  Make it visible to players and allow them to see the text overlay.  Finally always update the "Value" and "Max Value".



Remember this isn't the end times, this is humanity working together to save as many lives as we can through a proven methodology for fighting a new virus. Stay Strong.

Till next time, don't forget to Keep it Weird!








Thursday, October 1, 2020

Tool Trunk Thursday: Gas Arrow

Dog Brothers and Sword Sisters!  Welcome back to another installment of Tool Trunk Thursday!  I have been absent the last few weeks and so the Tool Trunk has remained firmly closed, but today we shall open it once again!

We have a local convention that will be running online this year so I have been madly prepping a Roll20 sheet to run Conan 2d20 at it.  Yes Yes, I know there is already a Roll20 sheet.  I just don't like it much.

Don't forget to grab your free narrative terrain deck!  I have used them to add more challenges to my game beyond combat and to exercise my player's narrative muscles.  I hope you like them and find them useful.  I would love to hear what you think!

Gas Arrow



Arrows prepared with poison tips are fairly common, but these arrows are a little more interesting.  They are prepared similarly to exploding arrows, but carry a payload of spores and other toxins that explode in a puff of toxic gas.  As the GM you can have this simply act like a persistent 1 poison, or you could mark the zone as gasses, requiring a resistance roll to pass through without taking damage.

If you have questions or comments don't forget to hit me up on TwitterFacebookYouTube or Instagram!
Make sure you don't miss a single post and subscribe by e-mail today! 

If you need to check out any of these great games stop on by DriveThruRPG and pick something up through my affiliate link to help support the blog!

Equipment icons are found on https://game-icons.net/ and are provided under CC BY 3.0.

Remember this isn't the end times, this is humanity working together to save as many lives as we can through a proven methodology for fighting a new virus. Stay Strong.

Till next time, don't forget to Keep it Weird!

Thursday, August 27, 2020

Tool Trunk Thursday: Medicine

BY CROM!  It is Thursday again!  Let us open this ancient trunk full of wonder and mystery and see what lies within its walls today!

Don't forget to grab your free narrative terrain deck!  I have used them to add a little more skill challenge to my games and would love to hear what you think of the system!

Medicine 


Designed to aid those who are injured, these concoctions are prepared by expert alchemists with some knowledge of healing.  By taking various ingredients and combining them they are able to create a wide variety of effects, though the most common of these is to provide numbing and the removal of infection from an injured area.  Make special note that these are not anti-toxins are antidotes.

If you have questions or comments don't forget to hit me up on TwitterFacebookYouTube or Instagram!
Make sure you don't miss a single post and subscribe by e-mail today! 

If you need to check out any of these great games stop on by DriveThruRPG and pick something up through my affiliate link to help support the blog!

Equipment icons are found on https://game-icons.net/ and are provided under CC BY 3.0.

Remember this isn't the end times, this is humanity working together to save as many lives as we can through a proven methodology for fighting a new virus. Stay Strong.

Till next time, don't forget to Keep it Weird!

Friday, August 21, 2020

Tool Trunk Thursday: Sorcerous Symbol

Busy days ahead for Starships & Steel!  Which of course pushed the tool trunk back to Friday this week!  But I did not forget!  I hope everyone is doing well out there!

Don't forget to grab your free narrative terrain deck!  I have used them to add a little more skill challenge to my games and would love to hear what you think of the system!

Sorcerous Symbol




These objects are sometimes very ancient, and other times gifts given by those that might bestow power, patrons from the beyond.  Either way these objects allow a wielder of magic to more clearly focus the twisting of reality. 

Using such an object is not without risk though.  It could easily turn against the user causing burns or something worse ...

If you have questions or comments don't forget to hit me up on TwitterFacebookYouTube or Instagram!
Make sure you don't miss a single post and subscribe by e-mail today! 

If you need to check out any of these great games stop on by DriveThruRPG and pick something up through my affiliate link to help support the blog!

Equipment icons are found on https://game-icons.net/ and are provided under CC BY 3.0.

Remember this isn't the end times, this is humanity working together to save as many lives as we can through a proven methodology for fighting a new virus. Stay Strong.

Till next time, don't forget to Keep it Weird!

Thursday, August 13, 2020

Tool Trunk Thursday: Acid Flask

Welcome back to all of the Dog Brothers and Sword Sisters that are stopping by to read these words, before we dive into the Tool Trunk I just wanted to say thank you to everyone for any comments that reach my ears.  

 NOW onto the Trunk, what strange concoction, tool or weapon will be unearth today? 

Don't forget to grab your free narrative terrain deck!  I have used them to add a little more skill challenge to my games and would love to hear what you think of the system!

The Acid Flask



This alchemical concoction is favored by rogues and thieves, but others can certainly find uses for it.  It can be intensely satisfying to watch the thing that stands in your way, dissolve into nothing.

If you have questions or comments don't forget to hit me up on TwitterFacebookYouTube or Instagram!
Make sure you don't miss a single post and subscribe by e-mail today! 

If you need to check out any of these great games stop on by DriveThruRPG and pick something up through my affiliate link to help support the blog!

Equipment icons are found on https://game-icons.net/ and are provided under CC BY 3.0.

Remember this isn't the end times, this is humanity working together to save as many lives as we can through a proven methodology for fighting a new virus. Stay Strong.

Till next time, don't forget to Keep it Weird!

Thursday, August 6, 2020

Tool Trunk Thursday: Moon Scorpion Husk

By Mitra!  Thursday is here again.  Time moves ever forward, and so it has brought us another look into the tool trunk. 

When I started these I thought I would just look over at game-icons.net and I would be able to find some random icon and from it make some new piece of equipment, and for the most part I have. 

Many of them are inspired by my adventures in the Exiled lands of "Conan Exiles", and I suspect this is one is as well.  I only suspect because, really, this actually originated in a dream.  But I have been spending time around scorpions in Exiles, so I suspect that dream was inspired by the game.

Don't forget to grab your free narrative terrain deck!  I have used them to add a little more skill challenge to my games and would love to hear what you think of the system!

Like the plants, the animals of the Hyborian Age, and those that came before it, often contain poisons compounds and venom that can be used for nefarious purposes.  These scorpions are no different, and their ancient remains still contain a highly toxic venom that can be used to create a poison even deadlier than that of the black mushroom.

If you have questions or comments don't forget to hit me up on TwitterFacebookYouTube or Instagram!
Make sure you don't miss a single post and subscribe by e-mail today! 

If you need to check out any of these great games stop on by DriveThruRPG and pick something up through my affiliate link to help support the blog!

Equipment icons are found on https://game-icons.net/ and are provided under CC BY 3.0.

Remember this isn't the end times, this is humanity working together to save as many lives as we can through a proven methodology for fighting a new virus. Stay Strong.

Till next time, don't forget to Keep it Weird!

Thursday, July 30, 2020

Tool Trunk Thursday: Black Mushroom

Thursday again Conan fans!  I hope you are having a good week and have something fun planned for the weekend.  Out into the deep swamps of the Hyborian Age this week to see what kind of interesting plant life we can come across ...




The plants of the Hyborian Age are not that different than the plants of the modern world.  Some of our mushrooms are delicacies and some are deadly if consumed.  A cunning thief or alchemist might seek these out in a market or in the depths of a stygian swamp and use them for some nefarious purpose.

If you have questions or comments don't forget to hit me up on TwitterFacebookYouTube or Instagram!
Make sure you don't miss a single post and subscribe by e-mail today! 

If you need to check out any of these great games stop on by DriveThruRPG and pick something up through my affiliate link to help support the blog!

Equipment icons are found on https://game-icons.net/ and are provided under CC BY 3.0.

Remember this isn't the end times, this is humanity working together to save as many lives as we can through a proven methodology for fighting a new virus. Stay Strong.

Till next time, don't forget to Keep it Weird!

Thursday, July 23, 2020

Tool Trunk Thursday: Incense

By CROM!  Another Thursday is here and as always more items are dumped into the mighty tool chest!  The chest is bursting at the seams as we cross beyond 40 new items for your Conan 2d20 games!




Incense has an exotic and relaxing quality to it.  Using it while attempting to calm down someone can prove to be quite effective as it serves to focus the mind.  Likewise, the scent of some incense can focus the mind and allow the user to more effectively pull on the strings of reality.  You can use this as generic incense and apply both effects to it or invent multiple types that give various effects.  Perhaps sandalwood can be used to heal, while incense made from purple lotus can enhance sorcery.

If you have questions or comments don't forget to hit me up on TwitterFacebookYouTube or Instagram!
Make sure you don't miss a single post and subscribe by e-mail today! 

If you need to check out any of these great games stop on by DriveThruRPG and pick something up through my affiliate link to help support the blog!

Equipment icons are found on https://game-icons.net/ and are provided under CC BY 3.0.

Remember this isn't the end times, this is humanity working together to save as many lives as we can through a proven methodology for fighting a new virus. Stay Strong.

Till next time, don't forget to Keep it Weird!


Wednesday, July 22, 2020

Altered Carbon the RPG: Creating a Character



I am back with another RPG look, this time at the new Altered Carbon from Hunter's Entertainment.  I will circle back to my actual thoughts on the rule book, but I thought we would start with character creation since the characters are how players interact with the world. 

Chapter 2 is dedicated to the character, there is a blurb saying to jump to page 41 for the character creation process, and then proceeds to go over each of the character's stats & attributes.  This isn't a bad approach, building a character without knowing what everything is can be tricky, especially if you are trying to create a specific type of character.  We will of course jump straight to page 41, and fumble our way through.

Character creation is detailed on page 41, but they include an expedited process on page 41, which is a nice touch.  Let's see if we can get up to speed quickly with only having seen the quickstart rules, shall we?

Expedited Character Creation

The rules say this is a quick way to create a character but at the cost of some customization.

Step 1: Choose an Archetype (pg 54-65)

This will determine our starting attributes and default sleeve.  It will also determine starting skill checks and wealth.

Archetype: Soldier
Default Sleeve: Synthetic, Mid Range
Starting Sleeve attributes: 
    Min/Max Strength: 35/55
    Min/Max Perception: 30/45
Starting Stack attributes:
    Empathy: 30
    Willpower: 30
    Acuity: 30
    Intelligence: 30
Starting Skill Checks (there are many, so here is a taste):
    Sleeve:
    Athletics: d8
    Toughness: d12
    Detection: d10
    Stack:
    Survival: d10
    Cultures: d12
Wealth Level: Lv1

Step 2: Pick a Starting Package (pg 54-65)

This determines the starting traits and equipment.

Starting Package: Mercenary
Traits:
    Combat - Common Trait Tree
    Business & Society - Anomalous Trait Tree
    Others - Uncommon Trait Tree
    Energy Weapons - Rail Weaponry Training
    Long guns - Basic Training
    Prof. Network, Business - Commission
Starting Equipment:
    CTAC Praetorian railgun, Flak Coat, Toolkit, 3x Lvl1 Credits

Step 3: Pick a DHF Age (pg 45)

This determines the characters starting resources, Ego, Influence, Stack.  Archetypes may modify Ego and Influence Points.

DHF Age: 35
    Starting Stack: 20+Acuity bonus (3) = 23
    Starting Ego: 45+Willpower bonus (3)= 48
    Starting Influence: 0+Empathy bonus (3) - 2 = 1
    No of Baggage D6s: 1
    Baggage Rolls: 1d6

Step 4: Roll for Baggage (pg 75)

Roll: 5
Personality Quirk: A new interest or addiction acquired from the sleeve.

Step 5: Finishing Up

The rules state that we now have a fully playable character, but allows us to make a few modifications, like swapping in some equipment specifics, spending stack points and tweaking the player as per page 50, which allows modification of starting skill levels.

And there we have it a quickly expedited soldier character creation.  The book makes many many references to DHF, and through context, you understand that this is the character's digital self, the bit stored in a stack.  DHF = Digitial Human Freight.  

This book also makes massive use of icons, we see icons for each of the attribute bonuses, ego points, stack points, tech points etc.  Once you get your head around the game and the mechanics although they are small, they are fairly explanatory and think they will work out well.  Even after just doing the expedited character build I have a much better handle on them.



Thursday, July 16, 2020

Tool Trunk Thursday: Books of Knowledge

Dog Brothers and Sword Sisters welcome back!  Little later post than usual!  I bet you thought I forgot it was Thursday!  Not this time! 

Don't forget to pop over to Runehammer's DJ channel and subscribe, even if you don't want to listen, every subscriber brings him closer to being able to run SUPERCHAT, which he uses to raise some gold coins for charity!  So,  if you are reading this and haven't done so yet please get on over to The Dungeon DJ and subscribe!



Libraries are full of books and they are clearly not all about magic and sorcery.  The topics covered in these tomes may be of use to the intelligent adventurer, even help them accomplish tasks.  Of course, the time it takes to look up the information and utilize it can add time onto tasks, that added time, as well as the considerable weight of these books, makes them less than ideal to use in every situation. 

If you have questions or comments don't forget to hit me up on TwitterFacebookYouTube or Instagram!
Make sure you don't miss a single post and subscribe by e-mail today! 

If you need to check out any of these great games stop on by DriveThruRPG and pick something up through my affiliate link to help support the blog!

Equipment icons are found on https://game-icons.net/ and are provided under CC BY 3.0.

Remember this isn't the end times, this is humanity working together to save as many lives as we can through a proven methodology for fighting a new virus. Stay Strong.

Till next time, don't forget to Keep it Weird!

Thursday, July 9, 2020

Whetstone, Issue 1. A review

Recently a new Sword & Sorcery anthology came across my social media feeds, if you have been around the Sword & Sorcery or Weird Fiction circles you will know that we have quite a few small publishers putting out various collections of these sorts of fiction such as Skelos Press or Rogue’s Blade Entertainment, so seeing another one wasn’t a large surprise, but it was welcome.  

Whetstone bills itself as an “Amateur Magazine of Pulp Sword & Sorcery”, and the first issue contains 10 stories across 60+ pages and is free, so I thought I should check it out. 

The editor of this anthology is Jason Ray Carney, who teaches creative writing at Christopher Newport University.  He is also an editor on “The Dark Man: Journal of Robert E Howard and Pulp Studies”.  We are off to a good start, which only continues to get better.

Thumbing through the PDF, I immediately notice that the cover and seal credits are given to Bill Cavalier, whom I do not personally know, but he is someone I certainly know of.  It is a hard name to miss among the fans of Robert E Howard.   You can check out more of his art here, “http://www.billcavalier.com/”.

Clearly, the Anthology has strong roots in pulp from within the scholars with a love of Robert E Howard.  Whetstone is a PDF anthology with the following submission guidelines.

Length: We prefer short, compressed stories that are nevertheless complete and cohesive narratives (1500 to 2500 words). These limits are firm. No more, no less.
Style: We prefer “dialog light, action-heavy” fiction that is unselfconsciously literary but nevertheless takes joy in an occasional old word that gives the breath of antiquity.


And so as you would expect from those guidelines the stories in this anthology are short, quick reads and I could generally get through a couple of them in my 45-minute commute on the train.  Settings and ideas run from wizards vs. heroes in classic fantasy settings to more indigenous settings and everything in between.  I believe it is a good cross-section of pulp and sword & sorcery.

I am not going to review each story here, although I may talk about them in the future as there are some that have intrigued me.  For my personal tastes, a random guy with no writing experience or training in English, each story had its good points, but some I certainly liked better than others. Some just needed more room to breathe as they had excellent ideas others felt more like a snippet from a larger story.  The shortness of the fiction left me unable to really get to know the setting and the characters.

For me, the pros of the stories and the quickness of the reads outweigh the negatives and I look forward to seeing more glimpses of new worlds and to where this anthology of Sword & Sorcery goes in the future.  You can find Whetstone for yourself by visiting their blog at https://whetstonemag.blogspot.com/

Remember this isn't the end times, this is humanity working together to save as many lives as we can through a proven methodology for fighting a new virus. Stay Strong.

Till next time, don't forget to Keep it Weird!

 


Tool Trunk Thursday: Crescent Knife

Dog Brothers and Sword Sisters welcome back!  Another Thursday!  I hope you are staying safe and doing everything in your power to help slow the spread of Covid-19.  I have returned to the office these days and so have found myself with less time to write articles, but I am still here and so I give to you the latest tool!

Don't forget to pop over to Runehammer's DJ channel and subscribe, even if you don't want to listen, every subscriber brings him closer to being able to run SUPERCHAT, which he uses to raise some gold coins for charity!  So,  if you are reading this and haven't done so yet please get on over to The Dungeon DJ and subscribe!





These blades are wickedly sharp, and could certainly be used as a weapon in a last ditch attempt to defend yourself, but their small size renders them as nothing more than an improvised weapon.

If you have questions or comments don't forget to hit me up on TwitterFacebookYouTube or Instagram!
Make sure you don't miss a single post and subscribe by e-mail today! 

If you need to check out any of these great games stop on by DriveThruRPG and pick something up through my affiliate link to help support the blog!

Equipment icons are found on https://game-icons.net/ and are provided under CC BY 3.0.

Remember this isn't the end times, this is humanity working together to save as many lives as we can through a proven methodology for fighting a new virus. Stay Strong.

Till next time, don't forget to Keep it Weird!


Thursday, July 2, 2020

Tool Trunk Thursday: Exceptional Dagger

Dog Brothers and Sword Sisters welcome back!  Thursday again and so we add another piece of equipment to the trunk.  Today we offer you a new take on an existing weapon.

Don't forget to pop over to Runehammer's DJ channel and subscribe, even if you don't want to listen, every subscriber brings him closer to being able to run SUPERCHAT, which he uses to raise some gold coins for charity!  So,  if you are reading this and haven't done so yet please get on over to The Dungeon DJ and subscribe!




Knives and daggers are generally pretty common weapons, and most do not vary greatly.  However, some of these blades are forged by master craftsmen from the finest materials.  Sometimes ornate, and sometimes plain, all of these weapons are of exceptional quality.  They probably will not turn the course of a battle, but they can add that slight edge to those who know how to use them.  The correct tool in the correct hand can make all the difference.

If you have questions or comments don't forget to hit me up on TwitterFacebookYouTube or Instagram!
Make sure you don't miss a single post and subscribe by e-mail today! 

If you need to check out any of these great games stop on by DriveThruRPG and pick something up through my affiliate link to help support the blog!

Equipment icons are found on https://game-icons.net/ and are provided under CC BY 3.0.

Remember this isn't the end times, this is humanity working together to save as many lives as we can through a proven methodology for fighting new a new virus. Stay Strong.

Till next time, don't forget to Keep it Weird!


Thursday, June 25, 2020

Tool Trunk Thursday: Hunting Horn

Dog Brothers and Sword Sisters head the call, the trumpet blows and calls you to WAR!  Thursday again, and such the trunk grows ever fuller!

Don't forget to pop over to Runehammer's DJ channel and subscribe, even if you don't want to listen, every subscriber brings him closer to being able to run SUPERCHAT, which he uses to raise some gold coins for charity!  So,  if you are reading this and haven't done so yet please get on over to The Dungeon DJ and subscribe!



Horns are used to signal and coordinate during hunts, but are often used to help coordinate troops in battle.  They can be created from any number of horned animals in the Hyborian Age, and range from plain and simple, to ornate and beautiful, inlaid with the finest metals.

If you have questions or comments don't forget to hit me up on TwitterFacebookYouTube or Instagram!
Make sure you don't miss a single post and subscribe by e-mail today! 

If you need to check out any of these great games stop on by DriveThruRPG and pick something up through my affiliate link to help support the blog!

Equipment icons are found on https://game-icons.net/ and are provided under CC BY 3.0.

Remember this isn't the end times, this is humanity working together to save as many lives as we can through proven methodology for fighting new a new virus. Stay Strong.

Till next time, don't forget to Keep it Weird!


Thursday, June 18, 2020

Tool Trunk Thursday: Tripwire

Hail and well met!  As the week grows long the trunk grows ever more full.   Shall we open the creaking lid one more time and see what lies within?

Don't forget to pop over to Runehammer's DJ channel and subscribe, even if you don't want to listen, every subscriber brings him closer to being able to run SUPERCHAT, which he uses to raise some gold coins for charity!  So,  if you are reading this and haven't done so yet please get on over to The Dungeon DJ and subscribe!


These thin lines are critical to those wishing to not be surprised in their camp at night.  Stretched between trees along a path and tied to an alarm, or a trap trigger, this thin line could be the only thing that lies between the adventurer's life or death.

If you have questions or comments don't forget to hit me up on TwitterFacebookYoutube or Instagram!
Make sure you don't miss a single post and subscribe by e-mail today! 

If you need to check out any of these great games stop on by DriveThruRPG and pick something up through my affiliate link to help support the blog!

Equipment icons are found on https://game-icons.net/ and are provided under CC BY 3.0.

Remember this isn't the end times, this is humanity working together to save as many lives as we can through proven methodology for fighting new a new virus. Stay Strong.

Till next time, don't forget to Keep it Weird!


Thursday, June 11, 2020

Tool Trunk Thursday: Makeshift Torch

Thursday again to all of my dog brothers and sword sisters!  I hope your world is going well and the events of 2020 haven't impacted you too harshly mentally.  If they have don't forget there is nothing wrong with seeking help.

For all those warriors on the front lines fighting for justice or simply trying to save lives.  Thank you for all you have done and continue to do.

Don't forget to pop over to Runehammer's DJ channel and subscribe, even if you don't want to listen, every subscriber brings him closer to being able to run SUPERCHAT, which he uses to raise some gold coins for charity!  So,  if you are reading this and haven't done so yet please get on over to The Dungeon DJ and subscribe!





A properly prepared torch is the best friend of someone who explores the dark depths of Stygian tombs, but as excellent as a real torch can be to illuminate the darkness, sometimes they are not available.  Sometimes all you can do is wrap some cloth or fibrous plants around a stick and hope for the best.

The resulting torch may not burn as bright or as long, but it is better than nothing.

If you have questions or comments don't forget to hit me up on TwitterFacebookYoutube or Instagram!

Make sure you don't miss a single post and subscribe by e-mail today! 

If you need to check out any of these great games stop on by DriveThruRPG and pick something up through my affiliate link to help support the blog!

Equipment icons are found on https://game-icons.net/ and are provided under CC BY 3.0.

Remember this isn't the end times, this is humanity working together to save as many lives as we can through proven methodology for fighting new a new virus. Stay Strong.

Till next time, don't forget to Keep it Weird!


Monday, June 8, 2020

Stars & Steel: A Space Opera Scale Miniature Wargame.

Introduction

When I first came across Stars & Steel by Assault Publishing Studio I knew I would have to take a closer look at it.  Not only is it in my wheel house, ie spaceships and gaming, it has a name very similar to my online gaming presence, even though it is for different reasons.  For me Starships & Steel represents two aspects of gaming, Sci-fi and Fantasy.  Steel represents swords, "What is steel compared to the hand that wields it?" Thulsa doom asks Conan.  For this wargame steel represents the hulls of starships out among the stars.

Most ship to ship games I have played are on a much smaller scale than this representing a scale something like FullThrust or smaller.  Games where you control a handful of ships.  Stars & Steel aims to take on much larger engagements, fleets of hundreds of ships.

Game Scale and Basics

If you think of this game in terms of an older version of Warhammer 40k where you had 4 or 5 units of 5 Space Marines, and put 25 models on the table, you are thinking in the same approximate terms of this game.  

Stars & Steel is a nanofleet scale (1:10000) squadron based game, each squadron is comprised of 1-12 ships controlled by a commander situated on that squadron's flagship.  Each ship is one of three classes: Battleship, Cruiser or Destroyer.  Each of these ships is comprised of some combination of missiles, artillery, fighters and point defense as well as special rules.

The flagship of a squadron is chosen from the largest and baddest ship in the fleet and the marker by which all ranges and movements are calculated from.  Other ships in the squad are arrayed around the flagship, but their actual position isn't that important.  You could, with a little bit of record keeping, represent each squadron as a single counter or model, although that wouldn't be as cool looking.

A small fleet engagement.
A small skirmish featuring 6 squadrons per side.

Ships do not not track individual damage, instead you will track damage and disorganization on a squadron level.  As damage is increased there is a better chance one of the ships in the squadron is eliminated.  Likewise as the squadron takes more fire it becomes more disorganized and begins to suffer negatives to its effectiveness.

Ship movement, maneuverability and some artillery ranges are determined by the ship's class.  A battleship is slow and turns poorly, but it's artillery range is far beyond that of a nimble destroyer.  Missiles and Fighters have a set range, it doesn't matter what kind of ship launches them.

The number of squadrons is determined by the scenario, with a small skirmish representing 6 squadrons a side and a legendary battle fielding up to 24 squadrons per side.

The other limiting factor determined by the scenario is the maximum rank for the squadron commander.  This in turn controls the number and type of a ship that can exist in a squadron.  If we look back at the skirmish scenario, we are limited to a rank of two stars or Captain. 


The above might represent a 6 ship squadron commanded by a Balanced Lieutenant.  As you can see it is composed of 6 ships and is fairly well rounded, have equal artillery and missile power as well as some point defense capabilities.  Fielding a squadron commanded by a captain will allow us to use Cruisers as well.

Although they recommend you use nano scale ships, they have left distances up to you, listing all ranged and movements as Distance Units or "DU".  They go on to suggest for epic scale, that 2" per DU is probably a good number with 20mm square bases for the ships.

The Color of Outer Space

This game makes use of colored dice to note incoming artillery, missiles and airborne fighters.  Further it uses colored dice to track damage and disorganization: Yellow, Blue, Green, Black and Red.  I am almost certain if you played the game for awhile you would figure those out, provided you had no issues with color.  For people who are color blind I can see this causing potential issues.

Fortunately the game also comes with a bunch of print and play tokens, so they aren't completely tied to using the dice colors.  I would suggest the tokens are a better way to go, they will be clearer and easier to see and understand for everyone.

I whipped up a set of counters quickly using Game-Icons.net as well.  If people are interested in these I can make them available.  




The Game Turn

The game is broken into a number of phases, some are small and quick housekeeping steps, while others are used to move or fire your weapons.
  1. Beginning - Initiative, deployment and damage control
  2. Orders - Determine what fleet is doing - Reactive
  3. Artillery - Resolving artillery orders
  4. Movement - Resolving movement orders - Reactive
  5. Aircraft/Fighters - Resolving fighter orders - Reactive
  6. Missiles - Resolving missile orders
  7. End - Housekeeping
The game is played in an alternating reactive style.  The player with initiative selects and activates one of their squadrons.  Once they have finished the opposing player selects the squadron closest to the activate squadron and completes it's phase.  Not all phases require this activation sequence, but several key phases require it: Orders, Movement and Fighters

Orders Phase: Orders come in 5 flavors (Artillery fire, Missile fire, Maneuvers, Regrouping and Fighter command) and two types (Basic and Advanced), with advanced orders requiring a roll by the squadron's commander to achieve.  For example a squadron can easily make a turn, but to take evasive action requires the commander to make a competency roll. 

Each Squadron can complete a number of orders up to the Commanders efficiency rating.  In our sample squadron above the Lieutenant may issue 3 orders per turn. ie Fire Artillery, Turn and Regroup.  Everything a squadron is going to do is planned here and resolved in later steps.  

Artillery & Missile Phases: These two phases are pretty similar.  During the orders phases squadrons will have directed their fire power ratings at enemy squadrons.  When we get to these phases all of these allocated dice will be resolved.  Each point allows a die to be rolled to determine damage and disorganization.  For artillery a roll of 5-6 causes 1 point of damage and 1 point of disorganization.  So if a squadron has 10 artillery points against it, the attacking players rolls 10d6 and determines which dice are above 5-6.  

Fighter Phase: During the orders phase a squadron can increase the number of fighters it has in space at one time, but they aren't directed anywhere.  In this phase we direct them to do various actions, hold position, attack, shoot down missiles, etc.

Movement Phase: As mentioned above this is a cinematic 2D space game.  Ships are moved via reactive initiative up to their max movement range.  They can elect to not move if they wish.  Ships can not collide, but if they end their turn close to each other they may incur disorganization points.  Turns are not well defined here.  They need to be ordered in the orders phase but there is no indication of when the turn can occur.  At the beginning?  During the move?  At the end? 

The game progresses through these phases, ships moving and firing, launching fighters and becoming disorganized until the missions objectives are completed.

Overall Thoughts

My initial thoughts for this game was there was a lot to remember and a lot to keep track of.  I didn't think it had that much potential to be honest.  I almost didn't even bother writing this overview.  As I continued to look at the rules and take notes and got a better feel for it, I started to warm to it.  

As I write this now, I see potential for some pretty cool games fielding lots and lots of ships, which is of course the downside, you need lots and lots of ships.  You can get a couple of destroyer class ships from Ground Zero games for the $5 mark, putting a squadron of destroyers at about $15.  Ships in the battleship range jump steeply in price from Ground Zero.  All of these GZG ships are also a little on the large size, but the modern world has all kinds of 3D printing options to make the idea of fielding 100 ships and not breaking the bank a possibility.

Assault Publishing Studio have released a set of .STL files available as with the Pay What You Want model on Wargame Vault as well and plan on releasing more.  I downloaded the current set and printed a few off so you could get an idea of the ship scale.  The image is taken against a 1"x 1" grid.  So if you already have a 3D printer this game should be fairly cheap to get into.  I will go over a simple basing method in another article.


I also want to take a moment and point you at a blog that I had not visited in quite awhile.  I was happy to see a lot of new posts, especially around his creation of spaceships.  Jump over to Solipsist Gaming and check out his DIY gaming stuff.

Some of the things I like is how abstracted it is, making it relatively simple and quick to maneuver vast fleets, with the above skirmish example each player is only going to need to deal with 6 entities a turn, making this no more complicated in essence than something like A Song of Blades and Heroes.  

Ship weapons are broken into three basic classes: missiles, artillery and fighters.  What those look like is largely up to you and the universe you are trying to portray.  Dice resolution is all die pool based, something I find quick and fun, who doesn't like rolling lots of dice?

I do feel that the game is missing at least one key aspect and that is shields.  You could make an argument that they are abstracted into the game engine and all ships carry them.  I am OK with this as an explanation except the game engine uses point defense as a mechanic to take down missiles.  Perhaps this was a conscious decision to not include them.  Does adding shields make missiles even less effective? 
 
Perhaps instead of a point defense system the ships could simply have a defenses stat, which abstracted to Armor, Shields and Point Defense, with it effecting missiles and artillery differently?  These are of course simple idle thoughts that occurred to me as I was reading the rules.

Another idea it misses and one that might help with missiles not being useless if we add shields, is something I have seen elsewhere, artillery gets weaker over distance.  At close range they do full damage, and as that range increases then the damage decreases.  Sure this doesn't make a lot of sense given the vacuum of space, but this is a cinematic game, not a perfect depiction of starship combat.

These two elements are just ideas and certainly aren't meant to say this system is missing the boat.  I do not think that.  Abstractions of things are necessary or games of this size can quickly become a nightmare of logistics.

So if you want a fairly quick to play game of starship combat that allows you to field that grand fleet from The Last Jedi, this game might be for you and I suggest jumping over to Wargame Vault and checking it out.  Right now the game is Pay What You Want, you can download it for free and head on back later if you like it and drop them a few dollars.

If you have questions or comments don't forget to hit me up on TwitterFacebookYoutube or Instagram!
Make sure you don't miss a single post and subscribe by e-mail today! 

If you need to check out any of these great games stop on by DriveThruRPG and pick something up through my affiliate link to help support the blog!

Remember this isn't the end times, this is humanity working together to save as many lives as we can through proven methodology for fighting new a new virus. Stay Strong.

Till next time, don't forget to Keep it Weird!