Saturday, January 7, 2023

Sector 23: Week 1!


I have been working, one world a day, on Sector 23. Here are the first seven worlds in the project!

Subsector A

0103 Melqart B741544-9 Ni Po Scout and Naval Bases

An otherwise marginal colony, Melqart housed an Imperial Naval Station before the Collapse, with a Scout attachment. When the Star Empire fell, Melqart’s population retained both the advanced starport and a few naval assets, which they still maintain, albeit at a partial level. Their fleet, however, is aging, and they can only manufacture replacement small craft locally. Melqart lacks the industrial might to become even a regional power, but its strong martial roots and remaining advanced facilities permit it to repel foreign intervention and keep pirates away from their system. However, this still leaves Melqart as a prime target for technological larceny.

Themes: vast decaying starport and naval yard; jury-rigged, patchwork technology; strong martial culture.

0104 Anu E563270-7 Lo Ni Gas Giant RED ZONE

A dry but otherwise hospitable world, Anu was devastated by a pandemic - potentially a bioweapon - during the Collapse. The few survivors live in three isolated, tiny tribes in the ruins if past civilization. Developing an effective vaccine for that pandemic would permit re-colonization, and several neighboring worlds are developing such technologies to open up Anu for their own colonization.

Themes: vast ruined cities; biohazard; zombies???

0106 Suen C510585-9 Ni Gas Giant

Suen is a small, remote, but active, mining colony. While it lost part of its population to migration during the Collapse, it did retain its technological base and starport, and was thankfully not a frequent target for raiders. Suen has a well-known Antediluvian site, which was already excavated and explored centuries ago during Imperial times, but rumors persist of further, untapped sites deep within the local cavern systems.

Themes: heavy mining; heavy equipment; hidden alien ruins?

0110 Tammuz B674774-9 Ag Scout

Tammuz is a “breadbasket” world, a prime agricultural technology with a population of 80 millions. While its technology partially regressed following the Imperial Collapse, it still aggressively exports food and other agricultural products. Its main weakness, however, is its balkanized nature, with three agricorp-dominated “trading blocs” vying for control over their market shares. So far, violence was kept at the tolerable level of petty border skirmishes, but tensions are slowly increasing in the past few years, opening the possibility of all-out war.

Themes: agriculture; cold war; espionage and sabotage. Potential open warfare.

0201 Asherah B567888-9 Ri

The jewel of the subsector, Asherah is a pleasant, well-managed rich world boasting the highest living standard in the Subsector - or so its government claims. Originally ruled by a self-proclaimed Emepror who cited continuity-of-government rules to declare himself the true ruler of the (dead) Star-Empire, such regime was short-lived. Following a successful coup, and a short-lived Revolutionary Council, Asherah developed a stable civil-service bureaucratic government. However, while the so-called Emperor is long dead, rumors have it that his family still plots to regain control of Asherah and build a new Empire funded by this world’s wealth.

Themes: comfort; sleepy but friendly bureaucracy; plots and intrigue under the surface.

0203 Milkom C620266-7 De Gas Giant Scout

Milkom is a minor transit station on the Main going to the Trailing from Melquart. The government of Melqart operates this station, maintaining a starport crew of approx. 500 people on-site. The station can produce lower-grade (unrefined) liquid hydrogen fuel (and water) by chemical means from Milkom’s soil, but lacks the equipment to refine it. Melqart also permits the Scout Guild to operate a small base on Milkom for the benefit of interstellar communications. One must note, however, that Milkom was overlooked and held a small transit station even at the height of the Star Empire, so much of its extensive cave systems are barely mapped. Who knows what may await deep in these caves…

Themes: loneliness; close-knit community of professionals; caves; hidden alien ruins?

0206 Ashtoreth C566521-7 Ag Scout Gas Giant

When the Empire fell, Ashtoreth, an under-populated frontier world, was settled by the staff of its Scout Base, most of whom became farmers. Only a few still operate the old base, as well as the small starport. The local culture is informal, as is the government. The main threat to the locals’ way of life, however, is the sorry state the remnant fusion power plant is in; it was a TL15 model, so spare parts are rare. The locals are looking for such parts, and slowly building a fission plant as a failsafe.

Themes: rural anarchy; informality; decaying technology.


Monday, January 2, 2023

Apocalyptic Swords & Wizardry - Food, Fuel, Bullets, and Parts: The Currencies of the Future

Public Domain Art

First things first: when discussing a gonzo post-apocalyptic setting, the simplest foundation to build upon is the economy. Or, more specifically, common resources often serving in trade or as treasure: fuel, ammunition, and mechanical/electronic parts. The necessities of post-apocalyptic "civilization", if one can call it so.

The basic economic unit in my version of the gonzo apocalyptic future is the Trade Unit (TU). A TU is the worth of enough food for one person for one day. In the less-contaminated parts of the Slag Marsh, water drinkable by mutants who survived for generations on untreated water. In more arid settings, the water required by one person for one day is also worth a TU. Food for one day weighs 2 pounds.

Pre-Collapse vehicles, as well as jury-rigged post-Collapsed vehicles use fuel. I won't go as far as to differentiate the various kinds of petrol products, as an abstraction, a Can of Fuel weighs 10 pounds (just as a US "Jerrycan" weighs) and is worth 100 TU. (Fuel can also serve to create Molotov Cocktails, 10 per Can of Fuel.

Making bullets is relatively easy with certain mechanical tools and chemical supplies a post-apocalyptic town with access to pre-Collapse scrap. However, the standard dirty bullets, made after the Collapse, are inferior to advanced bullets, made before it with mass industrial technology rather than in a post-apocalyptic cottage industry. Dirty bullets are standard; they also jam the gun on a natural result of 1 or 2 on the 1d20 attack roll. The rarer advanced bullets never jam the gun and enjoy a +1 bonus to both attack and damage rolls. Bullets (as an abstraction) come as either handgun ammunition, rifle ammunition, or shotgun shells. 50 bullets of any type weigh 1 pound. 10 dirty bullets cost 1 TU; a single advanced bullet is worth 1 TU.

Most scrap left by the Collapse is not very useful for post-apocalyptic tinkering, such as repairing pre-Collapse tech and jury-rigging contraptions. 1 pound of useful mechanical parts is worth 5 TU, and 1 pound of useful electronic parts is worth 10 TU.

Food, Fuel, Bullets, and Parts may serve as "coinage". Of course, when finding a stockpile of fuel, the intrepid scavenger will have to be careful when carrying such valuable, but flammable, load back to "civilization"... Note that the most valuable "currency" compared to its weight are advanced bullets, at a worth of 50 TU per pound.

First Post of 2023 - Gonzo Post-Apocalyptic Swords & Wizardry!

 

Public domain image by Burnt Pineapple Productions

My first post in this blog for 2023 is an idea I am thinking about for quite a while: writing a post-apocalyptic hack for Swords & Wizardry: Core or Swords & Wizardry: Complete. As I noted before, I am returning to Swords & Wizardry from other d20 OSR rulesets (such as OSE and before that, ACKS), as S&W has a growing community here in Israel, and I am very actively involved in writing material for it in both Hebrew and English. I also know that S&W is extremely hackable, perfect for creating variant rules.

Now, why hack S&W for an apocalypse? After all, I have my own 2d6 post-apocalyptic game, Cepheus Atom, and there are several other prominent and excellent gonzo-apocalyptic games, most notably Mutant Future by Goblinoid Games and Mutant Crawl Classics by Goodman Games. However, Cepheus Atom is less suitable for the dungeon crawling I had in mind, and I find Mutant Crawl Classics to be a bit too random for my tastes; I am also less fond of some of the design choices in Mutant Future (such as the significant starting hit points).

So, here I am, hacking S&W: Core/Complete for gonzo-apocalyptic gaming, as a side project. Right now, this is a "hobby" project, but it may get published in the future.

What do I want from my hack?

  • If it isn't broken, don't fix it. Much of Swords & Wizardry works perfectly both in a fantasy dungeon or in a gonzo-apocalyptic swamp. No need to write the combat rules, the monster design methods, or even much of the Fighter and the Thief.
  • Ease of play, related to the above point. Not making the rules unnecessarily complicated by my hacks and additions.
  • Strong dungeon crawl and hex crawl support. The "Old School D&D game loop" of exploration, finding treasure, experience, and mechanical character growth. But mainly, a strong emphasis on exploration of ruins and wilds.
  • Gonzo! Mutants! Psionics! Robots! Sentient animals! Mobile sentient plants! Gengineered dinosaurs! Ray gun! Cool stuff that will make my inner child shine with joy.
  • Complete compatibility with S&W and most OSR. Once again, the hack must not change the basics too much; I want to be able to port monsters on the fly and turn them into mutants! Muhahahahaha!

Also, behold the tentative setting, the Slag Marsh!



Saturday, December 31, 2022

Sector 23 Challenge

 
A new writing challenge is spreading like wildfire in online TTRPG spheres: the Dungeon 23 Challenge. Create a 365-room megadungeon (or other TTRPG location) in 2023, one room a day. Sean McCoy, who initiated this challenge, wrote it, urges the creators taking up this challenge to not overthink things, and use generators whenever possible.

I initially thought about creating a post-apocalyptic Bunker 23, but I had trouble choosing a post-apocalyptic dungeon crawl ruleset (I have certain reservations with using Mutant Future, and Other Dust is sometimes a bit too weird for my tastes). I did consider hacking Swords & Wizardry: Core to suit my needs, but that defeats part of the simplicity inherent in this setting.

So, back to my usual haunts! A Proto-Traveller sector rolled one world a day, with me writing at least one paragraph of descriptive text for each such world. Approx. 30 worlds per subsector. As a Traveller sector has 16 subsectors and a Terran year only has 12 months, I decided to add a rift - a (mostly) empty region of space to this sector, encompassing subsectors D, H, L, and P.

For the rest, before each month, I will prepare a "dot map" of star locations in the subsector, with a number of stars equal to the number of days in that month, then fill it in with actual worlds, one day at a time.

I'll write this up digitally, and gradually post here on my blog what I came up with.

Here is the "dot map" of Subsector A:

A few initial setting notes before I start rolling up worlds tomorrow:

  • The Star Empire collapsed. Two centuries passed. There is no central government controlling the entire sector, but local multi-world governments may exist, depending on my rolls.
  • Many worlds regressed following the Collapse. A few retained advanced technology (the Star Empire was TL15, with TL16 in R&D stages). Fewer may have even advanced. This explains the varied technologies and societies on the various worlds. Some worlds lost their population but were re-colonized by their neighbors.
  • There may be alien species, both local, at various technological levels, and interstellar. Potentially even some of the Star Empire's many foes invading its badly defended former territory.
  • There are alien ruins. At least of one (group of?) ancient species - the Antediluvians - left behind ruins. Additional waves of civilization may exist.
  • Technology is Proto-Traveller, that is, having a 1980's flavor to it, with some more "modern" information technologies (and even AIs) at the (rare) high TLs.
  • No empty-hex jumps. You need gravity wells on both sides of the jump trajectory. This gives space an interesting "topography".
  • Small-ship universe. This means that invading high-tech, high-population star systems is near-impossible without inside help, as it is easier to set up interplanetary defenses than create an interstellar fleet to counter them. The Star Empire may have had big High Guard ships; but they are (mostly?) gone by now.
  • This leads to the next point - without vast invasion fleets, interfering with neighboring worlds requires gunboat diplomacy, infiltration, manipulation, covert operations, and other things which may be easy to involve PCs in at prominent roles.

Sources of Inspiration:

  • Proto-Traveller; think of how Classic Traveller looked with only Books 1-4, Supplements 1-4, and Adventures 1-4.
  • Crying Suns, a video game where you control a former Imperial battlecruiser and move through the remnants of a collapsed interstellar empire. Highly recommended!
  • Dune, at least for the Star Empire's former politics.
  • A little bit of inspiration from Fading Suns, a semi-apocalyptic interstellar sci-fi TTRPG.

Monday, December 12, 2022

Cepheus Deluxe Enhanced Edition

 
I am pleased to announce that we at Stellagama Publishing have recently released Cepheus Deluxe: Enhanced Edition!

Among the changes from the original edition, one can find:

  • New and better layout.
  • Full color book.
  • Rules clarifications.
  • Correction of all Cepheus Deluxe errata.
  • Many more, high-quality, full color illustrations.
  • Deck plans for all thirteen included star ships!
And more!


Get the new book HERE!

Monday, November 7, 2022

Returning to Swords & Wizardry!

 
Yours truly holding the Beginner Kit and wearing the local Swords & Wizardry T-Shirt
My journey through the OSR landscape was a long one. After abandoning D&D 3.xE in 2008 or so, I moved to the Basic Fantasy RPG (BFRPG). This rekindled my joy of fantasy role-playing, after an almost-burnout by 3.xE, where I felt that prepping game material is a menial chore. In BFRPG, I could simply run with the game and have fun, even as Dungeon Master.

Afterwards came Lamentations of the Flame Princess; the Adventurer, Conqueror, King System (ACKS), a short bout of Swords & Wizardry: White Box, and, finally, settling on Old School Essentials (OSE) as my go-to fantasy RPG. However, things have changed recently, and I am returning to Swords & Wizardry!

The reason is that Swords & Wizardry is enjoying rapid growth here in Israel. After the core book was translated in the previous decade, a local team gathered and created an actual Beginner Kit boxed set! This costs 99 NIS (approx. $30 USD) and includes all the rules necessary to play the game up to level 5, as well as dice and two adventures! This Kit is now sold in multiple game, toy, and book stores across Israel, ready to bring new players and Game Masters into our hobby!

Swords & Wizardry booth at a local convention, with a wealth of new products!

This opened the floodgate to a burgeoning ecosystem of supporting books, especially adventures, put forth both by the local translation team, and by third parties. This happens while D&D 5E is unavailable in Hebrew (other than its mostly-unformatted SRD) due to licensing issues. While most adult Israelis know English relatively well, children are rarely fluent in it, and even many adults prefer to run and play games in our native tongue. So, the game is growing exponentially here!

I am also behind the local (Hebrew) Swords & Wizardry fanzine, the Fighting Agama, which already published two issues, and a third one is already in the works - this is intended to be a bi-monthly, or maybe even later monthly, publication.

The Fighting Agama fanzine!
Thus, I am switching over, for all my "D20 fantasy", to Swords & Wizardry!

Disclaimer: The Hebrew version of Swords & Wizardry is based on Swords & Wizardry: Core by Matthew J. Finch (https://swordsandwizardry.com/). The translation was performed by Itai Greif, Michael Gorodin, Eran Aviram, Itai Horev, and Eran Ben-Saar. the local team is unaffiliated with Frog God Games or Mythmere Games.

Also note that I have not been personally involved in the Beginner Kit's development, though I backed it on local crowdfunding, but I am involved in the upcoming Expert's Kit development.

Wednesday, August 24, 2022

Reignited Stars

Emblem of the Solar Union
 

A post-apocalyptic Classic Traveller setting I am thinking about is as follows, briefly, as a more elaborate and less standard replacement for Harsh Beginnings:

  • In the 22nd century, humanity colonized the near stars (TLs 9-13), mostly near Earth, but eventually around a Quadrant of space.
  • Apocalyptic war between the power blocs of Earth, spurred by eco-collapse and techno-shock, mostly devastating Earth, and the core colonies.
  • With most starships and all shipyards gone, the surviving (mostly further away) colonies were left to their own devices.
  • Eventually (circa 350 years later), some colonies, as well as Earth, regained interstellar technology and began expanding.
  • One prominent power is the Solar Union (TL9) - an authoritarian (but not totalitarian) state created by the union of slowly recovering Earth, surviving Martian colonies, and asteroid Belters. The Solar Union sees all human space as rightfully belonging to it and seek to liberate it from warlords and petty dictators the way it liberated Earth from wasteland raiders and warlords.
  • By default, PCs are "Detached" members of REA - the Reclamation and Exploration Agency. Think of a more aggressive Scout Service, or something like the TNE RCES, combined with a "marshal service" of sorts. The Solar Union sees itself as the legitimate government of all human space, and planetary governments not aligned with it as various post-apocalyptic warlords (like the ones the Solar Union defeated on Earth itself...). So, REA is tasked with exploring space, reclaiming pre-Collapse technology, establishing Solar sovereignty when possible, and preparing the ground for military operations if the local governments take an anti-Solar stance. Plus, maintaining the law on far-flung colonies and reclaimed worlds.
  • Solar Union "marines" are called Starborne Infantry, or SUSI (Solar Union Starborne Infantry). Called "Mother Susie" by the troops; or "The Sushi" by their foes...
  • Former colonies vary from worlds dead for the past 350 or so years, regressed colonies, tin-pot dictatorships, and genuinely recovering worlds, some even establishing their own multi-world interstellar polities (mostly TL9, too).
  • Science feels "hard" but isn't necessarily "hard". "Black box" alien artifacts permit gravitics, even grav vehicles. Flying cars! Expensive but possible. Adventure may take precedence over realism, as is customary in CT.

What do you think?