Swords and Planet Speculation Pt. 1

Sometime ago, I wrote about one of my favorite monsters from the Fiend Folio, the Crabmen. In thinking about a recent post about societies being further away from the sun, I brought back the Crabmen to think of a Swords & Planets type of setting. It's long and in need of an edit.

For the sake of the discussion, I'm going to refer to them as the Portán. For the setting, they will be very intelligent having achieved advanced technology at some point in their past. Physically, they are roughly humanoid with a hard carapace on their back. The carapace forms a hood over their squat faces, but otherwise forms a double axe-blade shape from their shoulders to their hips. They have six limbs, the bottom two function as legs, the upper four function as arms.

The top two arms are accommodated by their backplate to have a full range of motion like a human shoulder. In other words, they can swing their upper arms in any motion a human can perform. The lower arms are, however, restricted by the carapace, limiting their motion.

The hands on the upper arms feature an opposable thumb and five fingers. The first two fingers are quite a bit larger than the remaining three. The thumb and first two fingers appear similar to a crab's claw, though the thumb and fingers have two joints in them (like human fingers). The remaining three fingers are more slender, but not short.

The hands on the lower arms feature four slender fingers and an opposable thumb. The shoulder joints on the lower arms are restricted in motion, but the hands can manipulate objects in a manner similar to humans.

The Portán vary in coloration. Most species are identified by body coloration. Body colors include solid green, a blue-green gradient and a green-red gradient. Other species exist in small groups. Individual Portán are distinguished by patterns or marks on the back of the two fingers on the upper hands as well as their faces.

Their thick legs end in thin broad feet with two toes. The first toe is similar to the big toe of a human, the second toe is broad and thicker. It would be equivalent to the four toes of a human foot fused together.

Molting

One per eighteen months, a Portán will shed its body shell, or shlig, in order to grow. On average, a Portán will increase their body mass up to 10% per molting time. Old Portán can reach heights of ten feet.

Traditionally, the shlig was not buried, but broken down and used for making tools. Anything not used this way would be ground into powder and used as fertilizer. In the past 100 years, the shlig has been used very differently. That will be covered later.

Dress

Typical Portán wear very little clothing. The most common article of clothing, the skallee, consists of two pieces of leather shaped like bowls. The skallee are worn to hide the armpits of the upper arms. Skallee are usually colored to match a Portán's body color.

Since contact with other humanoids, some Portán wear a sash around their waist with a large flap covering the area between their legs. Being able to wear a sash requires a bit of modification to their carapace to create hooks to hang it on.

Combat

In combat, the traditional warrior uses a large shield in an upper arm and a smaller shield on the opposite lower arm. The upper arm without a shield wields a saber. Many times the lower arm that doesn't use a shield wields a thrusting weapon, like a dagger. Other warriors will use a one-shot pistol for their "lower" weapon.

History

Hundreds of years ago, Portán society featured a highly advanced civilization. The various species of Portán worked together to explore the stars in the solar system and engage in scientific and medical research. Portán society was egalitarian, no singular species held power over another. The Portán worshiped various gods without acrimony - many believed that the various gods were part of a larger pantheon that were generally revered by all. At the height of their civilization, non-theism was also accepted without judgment.

The Portán reached all the planets in the solar system and planted colonies on three. Equipment refined by their great technical advances allowed them to do some terraforming as well as genetic manipulation of various plants to flourish on alien worlds.

The Portán encountered only one other species in space. The Portán name for this species is the Elley. Although, they never entered into conflict, the Elley transmitted diseases to the Portán that their immune systems could not overcome. The diseases were slow-acting and affected the mind before destroying the central nervous system. It is not known if the Portán ever discovered that it was the Elley that transmitted the plagues to them. In most literature, the Elley are considered friends and companions, so it is unlikely that the Portán discovered the true sources of the diseases.

With widespread degenerative nerve disease, Portán society descended into great decay within 100 years. Wars between the Portán began as well as religious dissension. Sometimes the two intermixed.

Although all the religious orders claimed to attempt peace and reunite the Portán, one church seemed the most effective. As the Hlong Kaghee rose in power, they were able to reshape Portán society in ways more stabilizing, but also more barbaric.

The largest change instituted by the Hlong Kaghee was an edict to use the shlig, or the molted shell left behind by growing, for the common defense of the Portán against their enemies. Using a metal commonly found in technological devices (stainey keyir), the priests of Hlong Kaghee were able to animate the shlig.

With mass animation of shilg for the past three or four generations, many technological devices are cannibalized for the stainey keyir required. Stainey Keyir exists in small amounts to be mined, but it is not known if anyone is trying to actively mine it.

Animated shilg appear like normal Portán except for the blank metal face. The molt itself fades to an off-white color, so it is impossible to determine to whom an individual shlig belongs. Since the Portán do not molt the skin around their faces, the metal serves a secondary purpose to seal the contents of the animated shlig. Animated shlig cannot talk, but they can accept simple verbal orders. When not engaged in military action, it is common to see an animated shlig performing work in cities. Such projects are meant to demonstrate the kindness of the High Priest of the Hlong Khagee.

The High Priest of the Hlong Kaghee, himself, is over 100 years old. He can no longer walk. He floats on a massive platform, his bloated body covered in a paper-thin shell. He is probably 25 to 30 feet in length. He remembers the Elley, the last creature to do so. It is not certain if he has the neurological disease or not, but it is assumed he does as he uses various technological means to prolong his life well beyond normal limits.

Present Day

The Hlong Khagee dominate the civilization of the Portán. All Portán claim some sort of positive relationship with the Hlong Khagee, mostly out of fear of reprisal. Advanced technology is used mostly by temple workers and priests of the Hlong Kaghee. A few enclaves of Portán away from the larger cities and temples to other Portán gods also have use of advanced technology. In these areas, the technology available is usually medical along with a small amount of construction tech. Only the Hlong Khagee can animate a shlig.

The arrival of other humanoids has sparked hope in some that the Hlong Khagee can be overthrown. Humans from other worlds can take advantage of the planet's lighter gravity to leap and move objects. Magic is seen as technology performed without metal, and so raises no significant reaction outside of questions about where the mage acquired so much stainey keyir.

Math Post – Odd Bell Curves

I posted the other day about a mechanic inspired by Target20, a system developed by Daniel Collins:

(d20 + d10) + level + modifiers ? 26

This system assumes the use of descending armor class per older editions of D&D when it comes to combat. So, let's take the case of a 6th level fighter attempting to hit a creature with an Armor Class 5. With this system it would be

(d20 + d10) + 6 + 5 ? 26

Or, you have to roll a 15 or better to hit. The chances of that are 57.5 percent.

In 2e, a similar scenario 6th level Fighter has a THAC0 of 15 requiring an 11 or better with a d20 to hit AC 4. The chance of success is 50 percent.

Not too bad really - I don't mind being a little more generous with combat. But how about lower levels? Let's see:

This scenario is a 2nd level fighter attempting to hit AC2, a tough challenge.

(d20 + d10) + 2 + 2 ? 26

In other words, roll a 22 or better, a 22.5 percent chance of success.

The same scenario in 2e means that the 2nd level fighter has a THAC0 of 19 meaning that he needs a 17 or better to hit. Chance of success is 20 percent.

Saving Throws

When doing saving throws, the basic formula is still the same:

(d20 + d10) + level + modifiers ? 26

This time, though, the modifiers are standard based on the type of Saving Throw: +0 for Spells, +1 for Breath Weapon, +2 for Petrification, +3 for Paralysis and +4 for Death. (At least, this works for Fighters and Clerics)

So, a 6th level Fighter needs to make a Saving Throw against a young dragon's Breath Weapon:

(d20 + d10) + 6 + 1 ? 26

In other words, he has to roll a 19 or better. This provides a 37.5 percent chance of success.

A 6th Level fighter making the same save in 2e has to roll a 13 or greater, a 40 percent chance of success.

Saves in my system are more lethal for higher level characters, but only by a slight margin.

Now because the modifiers are different by class, I would simply put the saves on the character sheet so that a player only needs that reference to roll anything.

Rogue Skills

Doing this take a change in how Rogue skills are handled. Instead of using percentages, skills would have a number that looks an awful lot like a skill rank used in 3e. In other words, Climb Walls wouldn't be listed as 80%, but as +15. Since 2e allows you to start with a base and add points where the player wishes, I'd have to recalculate all new starting points. Climb Walls would start at +11, others would start somewhere between 1 and 5. I haven't worked that out yet.

Anyway, if you have a first level thief with an 80% chance of climbing walls vs a 1st level Thief in Andras with a +15 Climb Walls score...

(d20 + d10) + 1 + 15 ? 26

In other words, he/she would have to roll a 10 or better, an 82 percent chance of success.

More Work to be Done

Still more to be done, obviously. Just a weird idea. Yes, it would be easier to stick to Dan's original idea. His is more tidy in some ways and the formulas don't have this weird 26 all over the place.

Yet, the flat curve works for me. It does some funky things at higher levels that I like. Combat is still not automatic at higher levels, neither are Saving Throws. Maybe it will turn out to be a silly idea after all. As always, we'll see.

Looking Ahead to 2012

When I look back at the ambitious goals I had for 2011, I feel a sense of loss. I feel badly that I hurt Nevermet Press and that I promised way more stuff than I could deliver. I'd like to think that I've learned that lesson, but we'll see.

I wrote a short story called Two Friends in an attempt to kickstart my brain into writing more for the Shayakand setting. At the time, my goal was to generate generic PDFs for Southeastern Asian flavor that a Savage World GM could drop into their game. The idea was that after writing six of these smaller PDFs, the entirety of them could come together for a Shayakand Sourcebook.

The races were created with no big issue, but I was unable to finish the others. So, in March I started writing back here. Work began again on a 2e clone.

Most of this year has been the evolution of this game, now called Andras. Along the way, it has evolved from a clone to a 2e inspired game. Since my early groups all played an amalgam of B/X,BECMI,AD&D and 2E, that only makes sense. I never played D&D with just one player's handbook. Heck, I didn't play Marvel with just one, either.

Outside of that, I have discovered a lot of fans of the football game called Statis-Pro Football. This Avalon Hill game was one of my favorites back in the 80s. I loved playing it and I still do. I have all the cards I can find that were created by Lee Harris. I also have the formulas used in the 6th edition of the game.

This year I have two writing goals:

  • Finish Andras.
  • Make Statis-Pro Football Cards

When it comes to Andras, the finished project will be like the Introductory Box post. In other words, it will have a separate guides to help people to just sit down and play. Considering that another goal is a multitude of options for the player, that could be a very tall order.

When it comes to Statis-Pro Football, I plan on making 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010 and 2011 cards. I also plan on making a separate set of cards that are modified in a way to eliminate the dreaded rest rules. If I get a chance, I'll try to make some historic teams, UFL teams and others.

I only have one gaming goal this year. I want to have a regular Google+ game.

I wish everyone a happy 2012. I hope you have a great time gaming!