Saturday, May 21, 2016

Battles of the Mechacyberoids

Battles of the Mechacyberoids is a setting that I just came up with. Years ago, at the old (now defunct) Goblinoid Games forum, we were fooling around with the character generation system used in Mini-Six during its beta-testing stage. We were making stats for all sorts of characters, established and original. Among them, I managed to make stats for some of the Gen-1 Transformers, namely Optimus Prime, Ratchet, Bumblebee, Megatron and Starscream. One of the key things with this was the use of scale. In the rules, scale determines size and firepower (and the resistance there of). Bumblebee had the smallest scale in any form, while everyone else were huge in size. Although, the rules did not cover scale in chargen, it was a neat gimmick. After that, I have been thinking about a Transformer-inspired that was different enough to be its own thing. Only until now, did it hit me...

This setting is a cross between super sentai fiction (think Voltron and Power Rangers) and cartoons with giant transformable robots (Transformers; Go-Bots), with some magical girl transformations (Cutie Honey; Sailor Moon). I wanted to make a setting about giant transformable robots, but to do so, without being reliant on human sidekicks — such characters, often teenagers, were used as intermediates between the young viewers, and the strange alien robots. I wanted the action to jump between human-scale and mecha/vehicle-scale without having to change characters. One of the key ideas came from Transformers: Headmasters; a strange take on later Gen-1 Transformers, where alien humans had the idea of turning Cybertronian heads into transformable exo-suits, allowing humans to serve as a supporting brain, while leaving the Cybertronian in alt-mode (vehicle mode) when not together. I just dropped the human partner, and made it so that the giant robot can detach its own head in order to transform into an artificial human. "Mechacyberoids" is a working title, but it is based on the long-winded titles found in a lot of old '70s-'80s giant robot anime.

In this setting, some alien cyborg drones called the Mechacyberoids, who in their natural state, resemble giant robotic bugs, found their way on earth in the late '70s to early '80s. They were on a mission by their master, the dreaded Cybergorgon, to secure an artifact (a blue gowning dodecahedron) that is believed to had fell on earth. While there, they discovered a strange form of life that could threaten the mission. Initially, they though the machines and cities were a living hive collective. Without a means to communicate, first contact was not pretty. They damaged cities, killed bystanders and had a deadly conflict with the US military. To understand the treat better, they took on new forms. Initially, they formed into vehicles and moved aimless round cities and highways. On further examination, it was revealed that smaller beings that called themselves "humanity" were in control. From there on, they separated their own heads form their bodies, and human form...

After years of close contact, the Mechacyberoids began to understand humanity better and became enamored with human idols and culture. They exist in two bodies: a human form; and a telepathically-linked vehicle. Their human body is mechanical, covered by life-like holographic skin. They have the ability to pull out weapons and tools from out of nowhere, and to transform into "soldier mode." The transformation is vary much like Cutie Honey, and when done, they are in a cool outfit, covered in armor plating and assessors (HUD-set, hover-feet, jet packs, bunny-ear antenna, utility belt, etc.). Their vehicular body can change into "battle mode", where weapons and other equipment (wings, ram-plates, grapple arms, etc.) fold out of the body. The transformation is vary much like M.A.S.K. When the threat gets too big, they can transform their vehicle bodies into "robot mode", jump onto the torso to transform their human body into the giant robot's head. Their giant robot bodies resemble the classic Transformers. Their giant robot bodies are build and armed for battle. Unlike Transformers, their vehicle forms are not fixed to one type of vehicle, but change their alt-mode takes time to scan and reconfigure. And also unlike Transformers (which never had any concept of scale), they are bound by their default size.

They can also combine freely, creating "Gestalt" (aka Combiner) forms form nearly all combinations of fully-formed giant robot Mechacyberoids. A Gestalt form increases the size and power by the number of Mechacyberoids formed into it. The only problem is that all the joined Mechacyberoids form a telepathic link, and they all need to be unified in thought and action in order to function. Normally, in the past, Mechacyberoid drones could work freely in this mode in great numbers, but the differing identities that came with human contact, had made this a difficult feat. (This is vary much like Fusion in Steven Universe, but more mechanical.)

These earth-bound Mechacyberoids pass off as normal people, living one human lifestyle or another. Although, unable to start families, they do engage in human relationships. They have no sense of gender or sexuality, but they have embraced such concepts and take on these identities as part of their "human role." They have two names: A "human name" that is part of their human identity; and their "true name" that would sound like a strange nickname to most people, but is the name chosen, and used with each other, that reflect their unique identity or dispossession. For example, a transformable dump truck was named Granite, as "he" is a stubborn oaf who throws his weight around, without an ounce of grace. As a human, his false identity is Arnold James Bolton, a construction worker from Mechanicsburg, Ohio. Despite their attempts as being as human as possible, they tend to exaggerate what is expected of them in their human roles based on what they see in media. For example, a Mechacyberoid living as a normal husbands, might emulate a fictional husband from an old TV sitcom (smoking jacket, penny loafers, and all). A Mechacyberoid who wants to "protect and serve" might join a local police department and act out a fictional TV/movie cop (short fuse, over-sized pistol and all), or dress in a loud outfit and fight crime as a costumed vigilantly (cape, tights and all).

As enamored they are with human ways, they all know that if Cybergorgon finds the earth, he will consume it, turn it into a dead planet. He would also see any free-thinking Mechacyberoid as an abomination that would infect other Mechacyberoids with its corruption, and thus destroy any humanoid Mechacyberoids. And if he gets the artifact, he would become an unstoppable force in the cosmoses. As such, there are four factions with the earth-bound Mechacyberoids: The Guardians; The Renegades; The Rogues; and The Loyalists. (all are working titles)

The Guardians were founded by a noble leader who dreams of a future were humans and Mechacyberoids live together in harmony. Their primary goal is to keep the earth a secret form Cybergorgon, and to keep the artifact from him. They also seek to defend the earth, when Cybergorgon's forces come looking for answers.

The Renegades are ruled be a power-hungry despot, who wants to secure the artifact, in order to defeat Cybergorgon and take his place as the master of the galaxy. Followers are drawn be the more proactive defense against Cybergorgon, and are more willing to sacrifice the earth and its people, if need be. They look down at humans for being weak on all levels. As the Guardians and Renegades cannot see eye-to-eye on most things, they are always at conflict with each other.

The Rogues are, for the most part, self-indulgent hedonists. They do want to keep earth a secret, but they do not want to engage in outright rebellion. They would rather lay low and hope Cybergorgon forgets about them. They have no leader or unified ideals. They mostly operate as gangs. They make up the majority of Mechacyberoids on earth.

The Loyalists want to continue the mission and hopes that Cybergorgon would forgive them for the delay. As they are seen as a threat all other factions, they operate in secret, trying to rebuild the communication network damaged by Guardians and Renegades forces. They have no regard for humans. Thankfully, they are few in number.

Cybergorgon resembles a large spaceship with three mechanical dragon heads, each mounted on a long articulated "Doc Ock" styled neck. Without any human contact, he has not concept of empathy or free agency. As he built this Mechacyberoid as semi-autonomous tools, he expect all his drones to serve him, and sacrifice themselves, if need be, without hesitation.

So far, it is a premise with a lot of room to build upon. I have no idea when I'll make a sourcebook for this, and I want to stock it with some key players and items. As this is new, I'm still coming up with new ideas, and even this basic premise would likely face revision.

Friday, May 13, 2016

Crimson Blades 2 Review

(Yes, I made is review of this game before, but that was a test of CharGen; this is an actual review. Pardon the spelling errors and the length of the review; that is how I review things.)

A while back, I purchased the first edition of Crimson Blades: Crimson Blades Dark Fantasy RPG (core rulebook) and the Crimson Lords Dark Fantasy RPG Supplement. Together, they were a great ruleset, offering a lot of neat rules and ideas. That I found out that there was a new edition in the works, and Simon was nice enough to send me files with a sample of the newer rules and content. Although, largely unchanged in setting, save for a better map, rule-wise, it was way better that what came before. The rules are more consistent and easier to run. I love it!

Originally, the second edition was going to be in a box-set, much like Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea, containing sheets, fold-up map, (possibly) dice and four rule booklets, each dedicated to a content of the game:

Crimson Blades: Characters & Combat
Crimson Scrolls: Sorcery & Summoning
Crimson Lords: Manors & Monsters
Crimson Lands: Legends & Locales


Through reasons beyond his control, he was unable to make that happen, so he published the game in a single book.

"For the honor of Greyskull!!"
(Sorry, it was that sword that made me say that)


______________________________________

The rules are simple and play like the old Basic/Expert D&D rules, but the game uses d6s exclusively. The game is tailored to play in the sort of fantasy seen with Conan of Cimmeria and Elric of Melniboné.

The biggest change between editions is how it handles dice rolls. In the first edition, what you need to roll was based on how you kick-down and hear though doors: roll a d6, with a set number (e.g. 4+; lower, the better) based on ability score or class ability (respectively). Some tasks (including saves) would be based on ability scores, and would not change through level progression, while other tasks would be based on level, with no consideration to high or low ability. Doing anything "untrained" would require a roll of 6 or more on a single die. The second edition streamline the possess by requiring only 4+ on a single die to succeed, high and low ability adjusting all rolls (from -1 to +2), and granting additional dice (thus increasing ones chances of rolling a successful die) through level progression. This also removes a number of ability-based checks like Strength Feat, Lore Roll, Notice Roll and the like.

One of the biggest hooks that got me into the game in the first place is how it handles Hit Dice. Unlike D&D, Hit Dice is not equal to one's level. Hit Dice in this game determines two things: Hit Point total and attacks per turn. Also unlike D&D, you do not keep a running tally of Hit Points per level. Every time you gain a new level, you re-roll your hit points. If you rolled higher that your old total, record the new score. If it equal to or less, than keep the old total. Although, in the new rules, you'll always get the minimum of one hit point per level, which makes hit point totals per level less stagnate. Hit Dice also features a bonus that is added to hit point rolls, but is only applicable to the current level and has no effect on combat rolls. Your Hit Dice is also the number of attack dice you can roll in a single turn. If you have two or more HD, you can use them on a single enemy, or split them between different opponents. You may convert extra dice for bonuses (for yourself or to aid an ally in combat), in order no hit tougher targets. Heavy weapons on the other hand use only one attack die, but the damage dice rolled is equal to your HD, and it is totaled! What that means is that instead of handling damage dice per attack, each effected by Strength and armor, heavy weapons can dish out more damage, with armor being less effective. Originally, defense was much like AC, where armor effected the opponent's ability to hit. Now, AC — called Defence Class (DC) — is based on DEX, shield-use and level bonuses. Armor now absorbs damage, making it possible to not take any damage.

The effects of this system, compared to D&D, is to prevent high level characters from becoming human pincushions, with the trade off being that high level characters are granted more killing power. If find this option to be way better than D&D, as characters who gain level can quickly cut through mobs and down powerful beasts, instead of being bloated meat-shield, who spend all day hacking at monsters.

Another neat rule is its simple encumbrance system. A thing to note, is that I tend to ignore encumbrance. I handle movement and what a character can carry in the laziest way possible. This "Thing" system is insanely simple, and reminds me of the Stone-based (units of 14 lbs.) encumbrance systems used in some of the newer retro-clones. In this game, weapons, armor and gear are rated as "Things." Most weapons, as well as the shield, count as a "Thing." Armor range for one to four "Things." The clothes on your back, some basic adventuring gear and pocket change all counts as only one Thing, but beyond this, what you are carrying is subject to the DM's discretion. In D&D, the thresholds to how much a character can carry is ether static (Basic/Expert), or requires a separate lists, based on STR score (Advanced). The amount of Things a character can carry are such a low numbers, that STR bonus adjusts them without complication.

Your class options in this game are: Barbarian, Griot, Fighter, Mountebank, Thief, Sorcerer, Wayfarer, and the inhuman Dendrelyssi race. This is not a game about characters turning into virtual demigods, so levels are caped at 10th level for all classes. Also, you cannot multi-class.

Fighters are your basic D&D Fighter, but with the ability to preform the kinds of stunts you'll see in Errol Flynn films. Barbarians are your typical berserkers with survival skills and a reliance on agility than heavy armor. Griot are African-styled Bards. Unlike the standard D&D Bard, a Griot can summon spirits to supplement their knowledge. They also have a lot of political clout. Wayfarers play out like D&D Monks, but are strange runaways with mystic abilities. Thieves are like their D&D equivalent, but are focused towards tomb-robbing and second-story work, and possesses no slight-of-hand ability. That ability goes to Mountebanks, who are like Thieves in many ways, but their skills are based on being con-artists. Where a Thief still uses Dexterity as a Prime Requisite, the Mountebank uses Charisma. Sorcerers are like D&D Magic-Users, but they can use meany types of weapons, and can even wear armor. They also benefit from the new rules governing the summoning of unearthly spirits, but not to the same degree as the Dendrelyssi. The Dendrelyssi are a race of white-skin dark elves. Much like D&D Elves, they are as skilled with a sword, as they are skilled with the mystic arts. Their ability to cast spells is weak compared to Sorcerers, but they are exceptional summoners.

Most of the classes have a special skills akin to Thieves' Abilities. They have between three to six skills. The player sets priorities to each skill. The priorities are set as Primary, Secondary and Teriary. From the start, Primary skills offers the best odds of success, while Teriary skills have the lowest odds. As characters progress in level, the odds improve more rapidly with Primary skills as they grant two dice and give more dice sooner, while Teriary skills start you with one die improve only slightly. Mountebanks and Thieves, who have six skills each, can set two skills for each priority. Wayfarers on the other hand, only have four skills, so they can only place one skill in Primary and in Secondary, with the remaining two in Teriary. Saving throws use the same rule. You have the same set of saves as in 3e D&D, with Fort, Ref and Will. Saves by default advance as Teriary skills, but a favorite save, as determine by class, is treated as a Primary skill.

There are other classes, but they are NPCs only. In this case, they are the Fleshcrafter, Merchant, Royal Redeemer and Witch. Fleshcrafters are Dendrelyssi who are skilled in torture and surgery. Merchants are expert hagglers and travelers. The Royal Redeemer are inquisitors who hunt down Dendrelyssi and their sympathizers. And the Witch has a limited cast spells ability (though her familiar), but can brew potions.

Much like Elric of Melniboné, the game is set to the "eternal balance of order and discord", and as such, you can choose to play as Lawful, Neutral or Chaotic. The book makes good note of each of their strengths and shortcomings, without making any side inherently good or evil. Its mostly about being conservative in your outlook (Lawful), or being recalcitrant (Chaotic).

The spell system in this game is the same as D&D, and does not offer much in new rules or ideas. The rules for summoning are wholly original. Whenever a class gains the ability to summon, the player must determine what kind of spirit the character can summon. The are: Elementals (air, earth, fire and water), Demons (of Combat, Desire, Knowledge, Pain, Possession, Protection and Travel) and Undead (corporeal and non-corporeal). Dendrelyssi and Sorcerers can choose what type of spirit they can summon — if they meet Intelligent requirements — then they must roll to see would type they are able to summon. Some classes, like the Griot, are limited to Undead or Demons of Knowledge, while Merchants can call on Demons of Travel. Intelligent and powerful summoners can even summon the lords of these spirits: Elementals Rules, Demon Lords, Liches or Vampires. Instead of the usual D&D-styled magic items, demons can be installed in objects or even people. Demons of Combat can be placed inside weapons to imbue great power to the welder. Demons of Protection can be placed in armor, doors, locks, chests and any other barriers. These items can be dangerous and fickle to use, but they can be awesomely game-braking in the right hands, and that is not a bad thing.

Beyond the core dice mechanics, another major change between edition is the complete removal of Experience Points. The reason for this is that the game is not a dungeon-crawl, nor a hack-n-slash. The goal of this game is to focus on adventure, exploration, mystery, intrigue, drama, politics or anything else that motivates the players beyond just mindless (and eventually boring) killing and looting. In fact, there are no Treasure Types, nor list of random treasure to be fund in this book. The system to rate monsters and encounters by level is still there to help the GM rate the difficulty of an encounter should it get bloody, but is no longer a critical component to the game. Based on how you look at it, this may be a good thing or a bad thing, but to me, it really cuts-down on the time it takes to do a post-game audit.

Weapons are categorized into Weapon Class (Vary Light, Light, Medium and Heavy), and further divided into melee, throwing and range, with example for each. Weapon Class are the same as weapons sizes in Basic D&D, but with different damage dice, or in the case of Heavy, the way you apply damage (although, Medium and Heavy weapons have the same d6 damage dice). Vary Light is basically an unarmed strike or throwing stars/darts (d2 damage die). Armor is categorized into Armor Class (Light, Medium-Light, Medium and Medium-Heavy and Heavy), with each class determining weight (in "Things"), Damage Reduction, Defence Class and penalty to physical actions that requires agility or stealth.

______________________________________

The game comes with a setting installed called The Crimson Lands. The world was once ruled by a race of amoral, degenerate albino-like elves called the Dendrelyssi, who treated other races, not notably humans, as slaves and lab rats. They are like D&D Drows with their cruel and wicked nature, but they are modeled on the appearance of Elric of Melniboné, with their pale skin, although there eyes are whited-out instead of being pink. They used demons and sorcery to maintain their vast empire. Long ago, their empire crumbed, humans rebelled — eventually forming their own nations — and the ageless Dendrelyssi are barren and slowly dying out. The Crimson Lands is made of around half a dozen small continents, surrounded by several large islands and archipelagos. There are around a dozen of human nations, with the Dendrelyssi largely contains to an small continent to the east. Language is mostly derivative of High Dendrelyssi: the language of Dendrelyssi royalty. As the lands are covered in the ruins of ancient Dendrelyssi cities and temples, there are a lot of strange mysteries and horrors lurking in the shadows, waiting to be uncovered by the greedy and foolish.

Braking from the standard quasi-medieval
esthetic overused in most fantasy RPGs, Crimson Blades tries for a greater sense of orientalism that inspired pulp fantasy in the first place. The art chosen for the book (mostly public domain and stock art form Sine Normine Publishing) evokes an oriental esthetic throughout.Save for Goblins and Beastmen, you'll find a lack of Tolkienesque races. You will find some Lovecraftian, along with classical Greek creatures, as well as some iconic D&D monsters with a name-change in the monster list. Much like the 5e monster list, there are a good number of typical human NPC types (Bandits, Cultists, Townfolk, etc.), and vary few Orc-like humanoid adventure fodder. After a while in D&D, all those Goblinoids become the same, so having more human types available is refreshing in any RPG. The one predominant humanoid monster found in the Crimson Lands are the Beastmen. They include a list of minor mutations akin to the Hoards of Hades from the MMII, thus keeping them from looking all the same. In a way, they are like Broo form RuneQuest, but way primitive and beastly. Even with all the added killing-power of high-level character's, there are monsters that surpass the ability of a party of 10th level characters to slay. Like in any RPG, such monsters help keep players on their toes, and when used sparingly, is good to give the players a memorable encounter, without loosing all awe to ease or repetition.

The book is filled with DM advice that helps adventure go beyond the generic dungeon setting. You'll find find hooks and ideas for running adventures in a wide range of environments (cities, wilderness, seas, old ruins, etc.), and without throwing huge lists of random encounters (although, is a list, but its only takes up a single page). The primary advice is not to railroad the party into a pre-scripted story, as players would just derail such efforts, but to allow the players to determine where they want to go, and to figure out their own way out of a given situation. One of the fun things I enjoy doing, is reading the list of hooks and figuring what book or movie the ideas came form. Some people might find that unoriginal or lacking in creativity, but any DM worth their salt knows how that the best adventures takes liberally form great works of fiction, and the less the players know, the better! I do this a lot. Plus, anyone who casually pitches the idea to incorporate the premise of Alien (1979) in a fantasy game is a winner in my book, because, even with all the clues and foreshadowing, the players will still fall for it. Yes, if they figure it out off the bat, likely avoid it the situation (as they should). But in most cases, they would find out once they are neck-deep into the adventure, and when they do, they go into total panic mode! (Its good to be DM!)

______________________________________

So yeah, this game does a lot differently. The rules are simple enough to be altered easily. With some changes here are there, you can use the rules for nearly any setting. The setting by itself strays from the same old vanilla fantasy. Which I find strange and funny, as I need an escape like this, for my escapist hobby. Although, I have not had a chance to get the full feel of the game as I have not had the change to house-rule the hell out of the game. I don't always run a game "by the book", so I cant wait to see would I'll add, and what I'll drop. I'm like a grease-monkey with RPGs. To me, tweaking a game engine is high art and a way of life. I know there are rules form Conan (Mongoose Publishing) and 5e D&D that might work well with this game.
Recently, I discovered an old, iconic third-party D&D setting form Judges Guild called The Wilderlands. I quite enjoy the premises of the setting, but their are a number of minor issues I would change about it (and not the odd skin colors; as a Carcosaian fan, I don't mind that much at all). If I was to run a
Wilderlands-inspired setting, I would strongly consider run it with this ruleset.

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

The Potential of HeroMachine 3

Not not long ago, I made a pic to highlight the capabilities of the HeroMachine 3 app, based on a set of videos by this guy. There are limits on what you can do on HeroMachine 2, but with HM3, you can do a lot more. Even with the wider options, HM3 is still limited with its features, so people find creative ways to make the most with whats available, and come with novel ways of getting around the limits. One of the most common things is to re-purpose objects into different things by tilting and reshaping them. It is neat what you can do with the fading and transparency of some of the background objects to emulate the effect lighting and shadowing. It is also good to learn how the "masking" feature works, as you can get a lot of neat results form it. Experiment! Dick around! It is a lot of fun!

Not too long ago, I posted the image on this one forum based on D&D and free-speech, but to the chagrin of the founder/administrator — Prespos — the perverts at ProBoards have issue with breasts. They see it as pornography, and if he dose not take action on pics like them, ProBoards would pull the whole site down. I do not fault Prespos for this, as he hates the restrictions more than me, but he wants to keep the site running. ProBoards is run by faggots who would rather make things kosher for the sake of the ad sponsors. Sponsors should not care who they get advertised to, as longs as someone see the ads. Simply put, if I was to run a forum, I would not use them, and for their shameless and draconian policy, I will maintain my AdBlock on all the ProBoards forums I frequent.

OK, enough with that shit, here is this the picture. Basically, it is a slightly drunk sunbather lying on the beach, dressed as God intended... well, as how I'm used to seeing beach-goes dressed, growing-up in the San Fransisco Bay Area. Enjoy!

(click for full-size image)

Who knew such a simple little program can do so much? _\\\

Friday, October 9, 2015

Reflections of an Old-School Otaku

Anime... A collective of animation that had achieved such mainstream success it is now a catch-all category to anything that even emulates its style, regardless of its origins, even if its its a cheap cash-grab made by people who see the medium as profitable to exploit, without any understanding or respect for what they are emulating.

The mainstream success can largely be contributed to a cartoon lineup called Toonami on Cartoon Network. In 1997, Toonami was an afternoon showcase of western cartoons and some anime thrown in. If you wanted less-edited anime (that was toned down to PG-13 violence, with mild cussing and nothing too risqué), you watch their midnight run. Beyond shows like Gundam Wing and Big-O, one of the most approachable anime aired was Cowboy Bebop. Cowboy Bebop tanked in Japan, but it was a huge success in North America, with it's recognizable archetypes and pop culture references (most episodes were a nod to some American movie, and show titles based on music and album titles). This was when most adult anime fans of today first got their feet wet with the hobby. To an anime historian, Cowboy Bebop is a milestone, with BCB (Before Cowboy Bebop) and ACB (After Cowboy Bebop) used by some of the younger fans. Since then, there have been a number of TV outlets for anime, and even dedicated Netflix-styled subscription-based net-channels like CrunchyRoll.

Before this mainstream success, Japaneses anime had different name — Japanimation — and it was a whole other hobby, with a whole other fan-following. In the years BCB, the hobby was so obscure, mainstream culture had yet to find any real labels or stereotypes placed on the medium or fanship, much less be on their radar, and finding anything or anyone within the hobby was like a grand quest to find The Fabled Legendary Treasure of Epic Legends that would supposedly make you wet yourself over its greatness! Mind you, there was no internet — or what we know as in internet — so we had to brave our greatest enemy: that blinding ball of light that appears in that big blue room the inhabitants call "The Great Outdoors." Braving horrible skin-blisters and possible permanent blindness, we old-school otaku (for a lack of a better name, as we just called ourselves "fans") set forth seeking others like ourselves in darken holes called "Comic Book Shops," and grand pilgrimages to massive gathering halls called "Conventions." There, we meet new people, talk about our interests, and establish networks to help acquire the items we quest for, namely bootlegs. Before the the early-to-mid-'90s, were you could find OVAs (made-for-home-video movies or mini-series) in the "special interest" isles of video rental stores, we had to find and buy them through underground networks of pirated videos.

How this worked, was that sailors who worked in the US Navy and US Coast Guard would be stationed in Japan for a time, were they setup VCRs in their barracks to recorded shows that aired on Japanese television. Thankfully, the Betamax was a highly popular recording system in Japan, as it produce higher quality video than the VHS — unfortunately, that was the standard system in the US. So, when the sailors come home, they sell their tapes to people who would use those tapes as master copes for a massive collection of bootlegs. They would duplicate the shit out of the master copy, and then those copes would be further and further duplicated into granny-as-shit copes. This is a lot like the first "wood-grain box" edition of OD&D, where only one-hundred copes of D&D were published so far, and sold out quickly, so most people had to contend with granny multi-generation Xerox copes of the rules until TSR were able to get more copes to market. They also used video equipment to add translated subtitles (of differing quality) in an old video font that would become harder and harder to read with each new generation. Those bootlegs would then get distributed in conventions, and were sold as "behind the counter merchandise" at comic book shops, where they were not advertised to the general public (they were technically illegal contraband). Although, fans know when a comic book shop sold bootlegs and other anime merchandise (typically toys and model kits), as they would have posters of anime series and characters covering the front widows alongside more iconic scifi characters and comic book superheroes. As a kid, there was no better sight then a storefront with posters and cardboard standies of Captain Harlock, Astroboy and obscure fighting robots standing shoulder-to-shoulder to the likes of Capt. Kirk, Boba Fett, Wolverine, and Superman! (There was also Doctor Who, but I did not know who he was until I was much older.)

In those days, D&D, comic books and Japanimation often gone hand-in-hand. You not just found bootlegs and rare collectibles at comic book shops; people used to hangout in the backroom to play role-playing games. It got nerds out of their dungeons and meet fellow nerds; to play fun games, and watch "cartoons" the FCC and whinny, uptight parent groups would never allow on television. Yeah, one of the big appeals with anime is how ultra violent they can be, and the fact that they casually show T&A in programs targeted at children, but the truth is, you can see all that in R-Rated movies that fulled theaters in the '80s. But where Hollywood spends millions to produce scifi/fantasy spectaculars, animation can produce more of the same results, and have room to explore characters, concepts and settings, while taking greater risks, like mixing genres. For example, Leiji Matsumoto (of Space Battleship Yamato (Starblazers), Captain Harlock, and Galaxy Express 999 fame) likes to take mythologies and fairylands, and craft them into grand space epics with normal Earth-bound vehicles (sailing ships, steam trains, etc.) made into spaceships. While watching the series, you are pulled more and more into his worlds, full of memorable characters. His works are imaginative, beautiful, and make for great settings to role-play in. To me, he was Miyazaki, before Miyazaki.

Well, that was my experience as a kid in the '80s. With a Navel base, a Coast Guard base, lots of comic book shops, conventions that felt like monthly events, and two nerdy parents, there was a lot going on in the San Fransisco bay area for anime fans like myself. In the '90s, there was a growing market of OVAs that was a big thing for me. Yeah, much of the videos were mindless schlock, but I loved them no less. There were some great titles, like Akura, Ghost in the Shell, and Macross Plus. There was a also steady flood of localized anime like Robotech, Technoman Blade, Ronin Warriors, Samuri Pizza Cats (surprising funny, if you're old enough to get the jokes), and Dragonball (DBZ sucked balls, but the original series was great in the same way as the works of Matsumoto, as above). In the mid-or late-'90s, a PBS station in San Jose played uncut anime (subbed and dubbed) like Urusei Yatsura, Evangelion, Key the Metal Idol, alongside great British scifi like Doctor Who, Blake's 7 and Red Dwarf. The level of nerdity was off the charts!! Then there was Toonami in the late '90s that showcased a ton of anime, Anime Unleashed on G4 in '03, were found Last Exile and Serial Experiments Lain, AZN Television/International Channel was were I discovered Armored Trooper Votoms and The Irresponsible Captain Tylor, and now... Well, I dont have cable anymore ($90+/month for fucking basic! Are they out of their fucking minds!?) Now there are all sorts of options. Yeah, I have Netflix and Hulu, but their stocks are limited. I quickly found out that there are quite a number of subscription-free sites were I can see almost any anime I want!

Goddamn, video streaming would have been pure fantasy as a kid! If I had this option as a kid, I would likely missed out on great shows like Pirates of Darkwater, Fox's Peter Pan and the Pirates (that cartoon was strangely dark), Batman the Animated Series (best of the '90s), Animaniacs, Disney Afternoon and so on, as I would be too caught-up with all the edgy Japanese stuff, while dismissing the aforementioned stuff as safe, happy "cartoons." Don't get me wrong, as a kid, I loved all kind of animation, but back then, Japanimation used to be a bitch find, so you appreciated whatever you could get your hands on, regardless if its good or not. They were was so culturally obscure, it made you feel special, and with the adult content; a little rebellious. Because of all that, it felt like all anime was superior. And with that mentality, I had an elitist attitude about it, which I grew out of as I matured, as I learned that many titles I mindlessly advocated were just plain shit, while I have been too dismissive with western titles for their lack of mature content. Plus, I learned that "mature content" does not always mean it actually "mature." For example, as a kid, I was annoyed to learn that Voltron was heavily edited form the original series do to heavy violence. I was annoyed by how grown-ups changed a good show to make it more "kid friendly," despite seeing violence all the time in movies. But getting the chance to see the original GoLion series (the original title) as an adult, I was annoyed by how overly violent the show was. Basically, it was going form one extreme to another. The level of violence and brutality on display undermined all the drama, tragedy and pathos the characters are going through, and the bad guys are even more cartoonishly evil then its western counterpart! Had they tone down the violence to PG-13 levels and rewrote Prince Sincline/Lotor as a more sympathetic and misguided character, then Voltron could have been a more superior program to GoLion as far as storytelling and character depth. If they are going to make changes for the sake of a western audience, then do it right!

Nowadays, I have the luxury to be choosy with what anime I want to be invested in, to were I can better avoid dead end shit like Bleach and Inuyasha. There is such a glut of titles available to me, I can't sort though them all! I really want to find great titles, but most of them have the mentality of people who never grew past high-school — nothing but angsty-ass teens and overly-sexualized junior high-age girls! Plus, they also have to compete with some great western shows I have been caught-up with. The current is Steven Universe, which is a surprisingly deep and brilliant show, with a lot of pathos, that takes me back to why I really love shows Captain Harlock and Dragonball so much. And, if I want a truly weird and obscure collective of animation make me feel cool and special, I'll go headlong into European animation... hum...? Euro-may?  ;)

Western cartoons... Japaneses/Koren anime... European animation... Its all good!  8-)

Sunday, July 12, 2015

A Review of Battledroids

Back before Battletech was Battletech, it was called Battledroids: The Game of Armored Combat. The name-change was do to the threat of legal action by George "No Sense of Irony" Lucas over the use of "Droid" as an abbreviation to "android." As such, Battlemechs ('Mechs) were called Battledroids ('Droids), and Mechwarriors were called Droidswarriors. The rule-set lists the following Battledroids: Stinger, Wasp, Shadow Hawk, Phoenix Hawk, Griffin, Archer, Crusader, Warhammer, Rifleman and Marauder. (The Locust, Wolverine, Thunderbolt and BattleMaster were not used in this set.) This review will compare Battledroids to its successor, second edition Battletech — hence forth called Battletech.

In Battledroids, a single hex represented 33 meters (100 feet), instead of 30, as seen in all other Battletech rule-sets. The Record Sheets used in Battledroids note all the same basic information seen in Battletech Record Sheets, but the Armor and Internal Structure Diagrams shows a fat, squat 'Droid that looks like a Dreadnought combat walker form Warhammer 40,000, with all the little circle used to track damage replaced by boxes that forms a set of grids.

Like in the Battletech rule booklet, Battledroids divide its rules into four play levels: Basic; Advanced; Expert; and Optional.

Basic Battledroids
Where the basic rules in Battletech, called Battlemech Training, used a dedicated laser-boat — the CHM-3 Chameleon Training Scout — to teach new players about heat build-up and heat conservation, Basic Battledroids completely omits heat rules. The basic rules also do not include Piloting skill rolls, anything related to falling, dropping or standing up, and the combat system are far different form the normal Battletech rules. The line-of-sight role are the same, but to-hit is different and damage is completely different.

Basic Battledroids have the following stats:

Move; Jump; Armor; Contact; Short; Medium; and Long.

Instead of using different weapons with different ranges and attack power, all 'Droids have variable Damage Values within the following ranges: Contact (1 hex); Short (2-3); Medium (4-10); and Long (11-21). For example, Stingers and Wasps, with their short-range firepower, have Damage Values scores in contact-, short- and medium-ranges, but nothing at long-range. The Griffin on the other hand has good medium- and long range firepower with its particle cannon and long-range missiles, but its short-range value is the lowest, with contact-range only good do to its ability to punch. A 'Droid's base to-hit is 4 for Contact range, and 6 for all other ranges.

Now here is where things get really different: A 'Droid's Armor Value is rated form 5 to 11, where Stingers and Wasps have 5, and Archers with 11 (the highest Armor Value noted in this rule-set). Being hit at the left/right flanks lowers a 'Droid's Armor Value by 1, while being hit at the rear lowers it by 2. Once the players determine the attacker's Damage Value and the defender's Armor Value, the attacker compares the scores to the Armor Penetration Table to figure out the number needed for a Penetration Roll. If the player succeeds, the attacking player rolls on the Damage Effects Table. The effects of the table are similar to a simplified version of the Vehicle Critical Tables seen in Citytech and onward, with results like "Battledroid destroyed", "Weapons destroyed" or "Battledroid cannot move or fire for X-turn(s)."

It is a neat introduction system that allows for quick combat resolution. Unfortunately, the rules need a bit of work to make it feel more complete. Also, it lacks the strategy that comes with exclusion of heat and ammo rules.

Personally, I would have Medium-range as 4-9 and Long-range at 10-18, and Extreme-Range (to account for LRMs) an 19-21, with base to-hit being at: Contact at 6; Short at 4; Medium at 6, and Long and Extreme at 8. This is all new and novel to me, and I feel compelled to make something better of it.

Advanced Battledroids
Here you learn to use Armor and Internal Structure Diagrams, Heat Scales, hit locations (but Critical Hit Charts are not used), and basic physical attacks (punching and kicking only). As the rules for critical hits are not listed, body parts must be fully destroyed — all armor and structural boxes marked-off — to ether cripple (for arms, legs, side torso) or destroy (for head or center torso) the 'Droid. The Sequence of Play is like Advanced Gunnery (form 2nd ed BT), but the Attack Phase divides into a Weapons Fire Phase and a Physical Attack Phase.

Expert Battledroids
The Expect rules expand on the Advanced rules with the inclusion of rules for falling, dropping and standing up, critical hits, injuries to Droidswarriors, aimed shots and expanded physical attacks (pushing and charging, plus the Domino Effect).

The Advanced and Expert rules do not bring anything new to the table, if you all ready played Battletech before. Moving on...

Optional Rules
These are the rules to expand upon the Advanced/Expert rules. Like with Battletech, it includes rules for clearing woods, starting fires, clubs, variable Droidswarrior skills, and Battledroid design. One rule included that was lacking in Battletech, until their inclusion in Citytech, where rules for conventional forces: infantry, jeeps and tanks.

The infantry rules are kinda neat. For one thing, an infantry unit is made-up of 9-men squads, instead of the 28-men platoons established in Citytech. You would not find infantry armed only with riles, as this a "game of armor combat." Instead they are armed around a man-portable support weapon, like a machine gun or missiles launcher. Unlike the current rules where one soldier dies per point of damage, in this edition, one point of damage can kills the entire squad, with the surplus damage transferring to any other squad in the hex! (Up to 10 squads can full a hex.) Their only real defense is that infantry are small and can quickly find cover, impose a +2 penalty to a 'Droid's to-hit. Also, you still have to count ammunition, which is pointless, given how quickly they die.


There is no Vehicle Design system for making unique vehicles; they are all prefab units. Compared to their Citytech counterparts, they are completely weak! Even a light, poorly-armed 'Droid can take a group of conventional forces without much effort. It may not sound fair, but this is a war where 'Droids are the "kings of the battlefield." Plus, the Citytech Vehicle Design system made it possible to field tanks that can hold their own, if not make short work of Battledroids.

All tanks get 4 MPs for movement, or 3 if they fire any weapons, while Jeeps have 6 MP (5 when shooting), and infantry only have 1 MP. They cannot enter heavy woods, lakes, burning areas or elevation changes greater that one level, while infantry ignore all terrain casts, and cannot enter lakes or burning areas. When a tank takes a hit, it can take damage in three location: the Armor, Tracks or Turret. Tanks have 20 points of armor up front, 10 at the sides, 8 at the rear and 5 for the turret (I suspect that this was a typo, where it should have been a 15). If any section of armor is deduce to zero, the tank is destroyed — if the rear armor was destroyed, then a fire starts on a 9+. If the tracks were hit, the tank is immobile. Jeeps only have 5, and do not require a special hit location roll. Like with infantry, any attack that destroys a jeep outright can transfer surplus damage to any other jeep in the same hex. And just like infantry, Jeeps are harder to hit, but with a +1 penalty to-hit. Normally only one 'Droid unit can occupy a hex. But with conventional forces, ether two vehicles or one vehicle and a 'droid can occupy a single hex, and up to ten squads can pile on a single hex without any consideration of 'droids or vehicles.

There are three tanks in the game:
  • SCR-8N Scorpion — no turret, three SRM-6 with 15 shots per launcher installed in the front
  • HNT-3R Hunter — no turret, one LRM-20 with 18 shots installed in the front
  • VDE-3T Vedette — turret-mounted Autocanon/5 with 40 shots and machine gun with 200 shots
The jeeps and infantry can be armed with one of the following weapons:
  • Machine gun with 10 shots for jeeps; 25 for infantry
  • 2-pack short-range missile launcher with 5 shots for jeeps; 12 for infantry
Here are some houserules for Infantry:
If multiple vehicles and infantry occupy a single hex and are attacked by a power weapon, the order of damage is as follows: Jeeps > APCs > Infantry (Jeeps are vulnerable, but APCs provide cover).

APC: This is like a Jeep, but with 10 points of armor, and they can also carry a squad of troops.

Towed-artillery: An artillery piece is immobile, unless moved by a jeep, APC or tank; it takes one turn to setup. They attack like an Autocannon but requires a turn to reload, and cannot attack anything within six hexes. As they are crewed by exposed men, they take damage like an infantry unit.

With Battledroid design, there are a number of things that were ruled-out by Battletech. Firstly, the rules allow for 5-ton 'Droids. I did the calculations, and found that whet you are left with is something that is slow for its size (up to 5 MP on a 25 Omni Engine) and completely unarmed and unprotected (.5-ton for internal structure; .5-ton for the engine; 3-tons for cockpit; 1-ton for gyroscope). Unless you houserule a smaller cockpit option, all you are left is a useless micro-droid with a large baby-head. The second, is that jump jets weight .5 tons, regardless of 'droid's tonnage, and there are no limits on the number you can place on a 'droid. In fact, the Griffin, which has a walk MP of 5, has 6 jump jets. This lack of limits could allow for heavy 'Droids with only 1 MP to jump great distances, beyond what a maximum-sized engine for their size would allow for normal walking/running movement. And lastly, ALL heat sinks — including the ten free heat sinks that comes with the engine — takes-up space. This is good if you have ammo, as they would soak-up hits, but bad if you are piling-on a lot of weapons and extra heat sinks. Although, now it makes more sense why the Critical Hit Table includes 12 slots for the arms and torso sections. (Personally, I can make do with less.)

If are are interested in 5-ton Micromechs in your games (don't think of them as "Inner Sphere Protomechs", but as "What if FASA ripped off the designs form Armored Troopers VOTOMS"), the internal structure boxes are as following: CT - 3; LRT - 2; Arms - 1; Legs - 1. Maximum armor is 27 points, or up to 1.5 tons of armor.

Here are some houserules for cockpits:
  • Mico-cockpit (5-15) - 1-ton; 1 internal structure box; up to 3-points of armor; no backup sensor; no life-support; no ejection seat; +2 to pilot injury rolls; 3 free critical slots
  • Small-cockpit (5-25) - 2-ton; 2 internal structure box; up to 6-points of armor; no backup sensor; no ejection seat; +1 to pilot injury rolls; 1 free critical slots
  • Normal-cockpit (20-100) - 3-ton; 3 internal structure box; up to 9-points of armor; 1 passenger; 1 free critical slots
  • Command-cockpit (80-100) - 4-ton; 3 internal structure box; up to 9-points of armor; +2 intuitive for commanders; no free critical slots (used as extra cockpit slot)
  • Armored-cockpit (60-100) - 5-ton; 4 internal structure box; up to 12-points of armor; 1 passenger; -1 to pilot injury rolls; no free critical slots (used as backup sensors)
In the middle of the booklet, with the sheets, there are ten stat-block for the Battledroids. Many of 'Droids have armor placements that differ form what are seen in Battletech, and a few of the stats are full of errors. The Wasp and Stinger are 1-ton overweight (going to armor) and 5 more points of armor then what the extra ton allows. The Crusader is .5 tons underweight, with 8 less points to armor. The Rifleman mounts an over-sized engine (VOX 260 instead of the 240 Pitban; 60 tons x 4 MP = 240 Engine Rating), thus loosing 2 tons — when fixed, it mounts two medium lasers.

And finally, we have the fluff...

A Dark Age: The Succession Wars
Now, you could have read much of this on Sarna.net, but whet it does not state is what was in the Battledroids fluff, that was left out in Battletech. Where the setting text was (literally) marginalized in the sidebars throughout the Battletech rulebook, the setting text in Battledroids took-up their own pages in the back. If you read Battletech, its all the same (save for a lot of "droid" being thrown around): Weapons of the Succession Wars; The Warlords; Soldiers of the Succession Wars; Mercenary Companies; Battledroids Regimental Organization; The Bandit Kings; and Battledroid Warfare. The last part was left out in Battletech.

That is a shame, as to me, Battledroid Warfare was something that feels missing form the second edition Battletech rulebook, as it gives a clear step-by-step Campaign Timetable of a planetary assault, noted in "D-Day" (Drop-Day) with "D-X Days" and "D+X Days"; gives clear motive to such an undertaking: (water, minerals, manufacturing centers, spare parts depots, or the occasional treasure hunt for Star League-era lostech); and notes the lengths pirates and Bandit Kings takes to steal clean water from planets. Much of this gives greater context to the military operations of the 31st millennia.

At the end of the page, it notes an example scenario called Skirmish on Mesa 7. Basically, a Davion scouting party, found Wolf Dragoons presence on the recently discovered planet of Mesa 7, and the Davions are trying to discover what they are hiding, while the Wolf Dragoons want to keep their presence on the planet a secret. It is such a small inclusion that four to six such scenarios could have been squeezed in a single page.

All and all, it was a neat read that gave a lot of historical context in the game's development. The game is buggy with errors here and there, but that is what you get for a first edition. I have been so enamored with the Succession Wars since I first discovered the 2nd edition rulebook, some 15 years ago. The lost rules are worth trying out.

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Testing Out Crimson Blades CharGen

For those who don't know, Crimson Blades is an D&D-styled game by Simon Washbourne of Barbarians of Lemuria fame. The rules are simple and uses only d6s — to-hits, hit points, damage, saves, etc. The setting found in Crimson Blades is the Crimson Lands, a dark-fantasy/sword & sorcery world shaped by decadent, dying race of dark elves based on Elric of Melniboné.

Not too long ago, I purchased the Crimson Blades core rulebook and the Crimson Lords rule supplement. Later I found out that the game is going through a major rule overhaul and is going to be divided into four core rulebooks — Crimson Blades, Crimson Scrolls, Crimson Lords and Crimson Lands — for an upcoming box set. The best rule change is the way it streamlined the way you make rolls. In the original rules, you only roll one die, but the target number lowers as your character gains level. For example, the primary skill of a Thief is rated as "3+", or a three or better on a d6 roll. In the new rules, you can gain additional dice during advancement for different rolls, and you only need a 5 or 6 for success. The primary skill of a Thief is now rated as "2D", or two dice rolled to get a 5+ on at least one die. The rules also changed defense form a third edition D&D model (adjusted for d6 rolls) where DEX and armor adjust a single Armor Class score, to a Conan D20-like model with a basic dodge defense score (adjusted by DEX and shield-use), called Defense Class, and Damage Reduction for body armor. There are a number of other changes. All around, this is a greatly improved system, but I would get into the details in an other, fuller review.

http://quellion.deviantart.com/art/Morgan-Ironwolf-106597584
Original picture can be found here. (not mine)
Here is what a (revised) Crimson Blades character looks like using my favorite old-school D&D "Iconic" as an example: Morgan Ironwolf. (from Basic D&D, 2nd ed)

In the Basic D&D rulebook, she is a first level Lawful human Fighter. That matches up with what is available in CB.

Using the same Ability scores rolled (no point allocation are used in CB), she has: STR 15, INT 7, WIS 11, DEX 13, CON 14 and CHA 8. The revised Crimson Blades rules use a uniformed adjustment array, and eliminates a number of the derived stats (namely, Feat of Strength, Lore and Notice). The Ability adjustments are: STR +1, INT -1, WIS +0, DEX +0, CON +1 and CHA +0. The adjustments are so spread out compared to Basic, point allocation makes no difference in squeezing-out an extra +1 to STR.

A Strength score of 15 means a +1 to melee damage, "Things" carried, grappling, throwing, breaking down doors, pulling/lifting/dragging heavy objects, etc.

A Dexterity score of 13 means no adjustments to rolling to hit, Defense Class, or Reflex saves.

A Constitution score of 14 means a +1 to Hit Points or Fortitude saves.

A Intelligence score of 7 means a -1 to figuring out problems, and is granted no additional languages. She is unable to cast spells or summon.

A Wisdom score of 11 means no adjustments to Willpower saves or to notice things.

A Charisma score of 8 means no adjustments to influence people, and she has up to 4 loyal hirelings.

As a Fighter, she meets the 9+ STR class requirement.

She has the option to choose Fort or Ref as her primary save, and chooses Fortitude. At first level, normal saves are only one die (1D), while a primary save uses two dice (2D). Her saves are: Fort 2D+1, Ref 1D and Will 1D.

Her Hit Dice is "1d6(+2)" at first level, meaning that she rolls one die for attacks-per-round and Hit Points with the the bonus applied to the later. With CON, her Hit Point roll is 1d6+3. As a 5 was rolled in the book, she gets 8 Hit Points.

She gets no Defense Class bonus form DEX or class. The base Defense Class score is 3.

She can use any weapon or armor, including shields. Her Armour Training allows her to ignore DC penalties for wearing medium-heavy or heavy armor. She can choose one type of weapon to be her Favored Weapon, which grains an extra Hit Die to attacks and Fighter Stunt rolls while wielding her preferred weapon. As she starts with a sword as her primary weapon, her Favored Weapon is (normal) Swords. She is also capable of preforming special actions in combat, like disarming foes, cutting rope with an arrow, unblousing a woman with the sword-tip and the like with a Fighter Stunt roll. It is equal to her Hit Die plus STR or DEX. (In her case, STR.)

The revised Crimson Blades rules dropped Experience Points in favor of Adventure quotas. As she is a fresh character, her (total completed) Adventures is marked as 0, with only one Adventure needed to reach second level.

As noted, her Alignment is Lawful. Unlike Basic D&D, Alignment is not about morality, but an adherence to order, balance or discord on a social and cosmic level. In her case, "Law implies honor, trustworthiness, obedience to authority, and reliability. On the downside, lawfulness can include closed-mindedness, reactionary adherence to tradition, judgmentalness, and a lack of adaptability. Those who consciously promote lawfulness say that only lawful behavior creates a society in which people can depend on each other and make the right decisions in full confidence that others will act as they should."

I ran into a problem were the cost of mail armor and the bow are much more than what is printed in Basic D&D and goes beyond her original budget of 110 gold pieces, so I added the end result. Silvered weapons are not apart of the CB equipment lists, so it was dropped. I added some additional equipment to round-out her gear. Here is her inventory:

Mail armor
Shield
Sword
Bow
Quiver of 20 arrows
Average cloths
Backpack
Bedroll
Bottle of wine
Leather flask
Hemp rope, 50'
Pole, 10'
Sack
Iron spikes, x12
Torches, x6
Trail rations, 7 days
2gp

Her mail armor can absorb 3 points of damage, per hit, and her shield raiser her Defense Class by one, making it 4.

With her sword, her attack roll is 2D, with a damage die of 1D+1. And with her bow, her attack roll is 1D, with a damage die of 1D.

With all her armor, weapons and gear, she counts as having 7 "Things" — an abstract system of encumbrance. (Her cloths and gear counts as one thing.)

Her above average Strength pushes her encumbrance to allow her to carry 6 things and not effect her rate of movement, but since it is one over, her speed is reduced to 9 yards a round.

Lets use assume that she is from Dralucia, a fairly wealthy and well-connected nation that make a great starting point in the Crimson Lands. Her primary language is Dralucian, and since reading & writing counts as a language in itself, she is illiterate.

And finally, here is her card:

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Military Structure of Mars (part I)

The military structure on Barsoom (Mars) was laid out in the books (Chessmen of Mars, I think?), but they were fairly simple. So I made my own. I posted in the Warriors of Mars (1974) sub-forum on the Original D&D Discussion community. The following are not canonical to the Barsoom Saga.

Here I added the Odthan and Zeethan ranks. The idea of an Odthan is that they are exceptional soldiers but without the authority that comes with being an officer. The Zeethan ranks separates combat personnel and technical specialists. Zeethans are capable fighters by their own right but their training and combat experiences is geared towards technical tasks and auxiliary support. There are some other non-military ranks near the end.

It should be noted that the way I have it, people are by default warriors. A person can choose to become a pacifist by taking an oath at a temple or gathering hall, were one sheds one's battle-harness (effectively naked) and time and ritual are required to brake the oath. A pacifist cannot take up arms, must submit if "conquered," and attacking an unarmed pacifist is considered weak and dishonorable. Only pacifists can become Healers or Diplomats. Chivalry is gender-neutral: all non-pacifist men and woman are treated as combinations, while pacifists are treated as "woman and children" on Earth.

Military Ranks

Everyone who holds such rank have pledged fealty to a Jed or Jeddak, who also provides their equipment and supplies.


Than (warrior) are regulars within an army. Like Panthan, they are rank-and-file personal who serve as infantrymen, cavalrymen, sailors, marines, scouts, guards, etc. But unlike Panthan, they are loyalists and are not as expendable. Unlike the canonical notes, they have one upright feather (instead of two) noting their rank. They get standard pay.


Hythan (icon-warrior) are the seen as the bravest and most reliable solider in a group. In a troop formation, they are given the honor holding the unit's shield icon. This is a man-portable force-field generator that also serves as the unit's war banner. If he should fall, his unit becomes vulnerable to radium gunfire. They have a small upright feather on the left-side of their main feather. Their pay is x1.5 standard.


Odthan (greater-warrior) are veteran and elite troops. They are troops who proven themselves in combat, but lack the traits (tactics and leadership) to become an officer. They are given better treatment and priority over common troops. They are usually put into reserve, given critical assignments or guard important figures. Their rank feather is flanked by two shorter feathers. They get duplicity (x2) pay.

Padwar (junior-officer) are lieutenants. Unlike Earth lieutenants, one has to earn his way to this rank. They have two feathers noting their rank. Their pay is x2.5 standard. There are three tiers to this rank:
 • Apprentices — They serve as aids to a Dwar, as they learn about tactics and leadership.
 • Commander — They are squad leaders in command of ten men, a team of two-man flyers or a patrol boat.
 • Staffer — They serve under a Dwar's command staff.

Dwar (lower-officer) are the Martian equivalent of an army Captain or naval Commander. They have three feathers noting their rank. Their pay is x5 standard. There are two tiers to this rank:
 • Commander — They command an Utan (100 men) or a Frigate-size ship with outriders (small two-man flyers or patrol boats).
 • Staffer — They serve under a Teedwar's command staff.

Teedwar (middle-officer) are the Martian equivalent of an army Major or naval Captain. They have four feathers noting their rank. Their pay is x10 standard. There are two tiers to this rank:
 • Commander — They command a Dar (1,000 men) or a Cruiser-size ship with Frigate-size escorts.
 • Staffer — They serve under a Odwar's command staff.

Odwar (higher-officer) are the Martian equivalent of an army General or naval Admiral. They have five feathers noting their rank. Their pay is x20 standard. There are two tiers to this rank:
 • Commander — They command an Umak (10,000 men) or an entire fleet from a Battleship-size ship.
 • Staffer — They serve under a Jedwar's command staff.

Jedwar (chief-officer) are the Commander-and-Chief of an entire national army, and are subordinates only to a Jed or Jeddak. They have five feathers separated by six short feathers to note their rank. Their pay is x50 standard.

Jed/Jeddak (chief/chief-supreme) is a leader of an entire nation, and is the Martian equivalent of a King. A Jed controls a city state, while a Jeddak controls several cities. Do to their access to the treasury and a royal stipend, they have no salary. They have a crown with several feathers.

Technical Ranks

As above, they are members of a national military, but they are not expected to fight in the front lines unless something on the front line needs fixing.

Zeethan (technical-warrior) are specialist troops. They are technicians, artillery gunners, sappers, etc. They have a small upright feather on the right-side of their main feather. Their pay is x1.5 standard.

Zeewar (technical-officer) are like Warrant Offices, but with authority over Zeethan and Panzeethan personal, and are highly skilled engineers. They have two and a half feathers noting their rank. Their pay is x2.5 standard. There are two tiers to this rank:
 • Apprentices — They serve as aids and apprentices to a Jedzee, as they learn about leadership and more technical fields.
 • Commander — They are department heads or commanders of technical teams on the field.

Jedzee (chief-technician) are the Chief Engineers on a ship, or field commanders of an Engineer Corp. They have three and a half feathers noting their rank. Their pay is x5 standard.

Mercenary Ranks

Here are the ranks of the free agents. They serve no master, but fight for the right for money and a free pass within a city state.

Panthan (free-warrior) are basically mercenaries. They are seen as the least loyal and most expendable. Unlike Gorthan, they have nothing to prove and only fight for money. They must supply their own equipment and transport, and buy their own food and supplies. They have one downward feather noting their rank. They get standard pay.

Panzeethan (free-technical-warrior) are specialist mercenary troops. They are hired technicians, artillery gunners, sappers, etc. They have a small downward feather on the right-side of their main feather. Their pay is x1.5 standard.

Other Ranks

Although they are not seen as rank and file troops or officers, I include these ranks, as they usually seen working alongside the military. 

Gorthan (bonded-warrior) are captured and enslaved, petty criminals, or disgraced soldiers who are proving their loyalty and honor by serving as highly expendable troops, akin to Panthan troops, but without pay — basically penal/slave troops. This is considered a rank of distress and shame. They have no feather, and are striped of there battle-harness — effectively naked — save for a singe belt, a sword and wrist & ankle-bands of a slave. They are still provided for with food (mostly Usa) and board, as with any slave.

Healers (for a lack of a better name) are pacifists under oath, so attacking one is considered highly disgraceful and cowardly. They have a distinct dress, pouches for medical supplies and large colorful plumes. They will treat or lend comfort to anyone injured, regardless of their status or race.