Swords and Planet Speculation Pt. 1

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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.


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.


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.


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.


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.

Wake Me When 5e Starts

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Enough is enough.

I want to like 5e. In many ways, the modular approach of 5e is similar to what I want to do with Andras. I like simple combat that uses no minis. I like DM Fiat. I like players inventing things because they are not chained to their character sheet.

I look forward to being able to walk into a FLGS and play 5e with total strangers and/or a coupe friends I know. I hope 5e does a little to dislodge the cotillion of Warhammer40K players from taking over every table, every night at one of the FLGS in town. (When I asked, they don't even have any 40K games taking new players. I tried!)

All of this is well and good. As of right now, though, all we get is polls, semi-vague answers parceled out three nuggets at a time, and a flurry of "I-Played-But-I-Have-An-NDA" posts.

So forget it. No missing-the-point posts about gender ability score maximums, speculative what-I-want posts, edition-wars-without-a-freaking-ruleset-to-argue-from posts, or even fake I-disregard-my-NDA posts. Just tell me when the open playtest starts. No email with "sneak peek, but you have to sign an NDA". The REAL playtest. Get on with it.

Too much hype. Thank you for re-designing a website that makes it impossible to find anything. That's great. Keep going, the DC for finding anything in the forums has gone down from 45 to 40. Still, please start the playtest or just tell us you announced an open playtest before legal signed off on it so I know it will be another three to six months before we get any details.

Get going!

Until then, I have ACKS. At least I can pay $5 to see the playtest rules for them. ACKS has many of things I want in my game and I look forward to the Player's Companion when it comes out so that I can use the class maker.

Like every other ruleset, I'm going to add Spelljammer type stuff, so I like the idea that I can create various planets, have some dwarves, elves, humans, and one or two extra races and the classes on each planet are different. Since ACKS does race as class, I hope the class creation system also has a form of race creation inside it.

I've seen ACKS, but I haven't purchased it yet, but I will. It is a great game that does everything I want. I may not buy the GM's Companion if that comes out next, but the Core Rules and the Player's Companion sound very good. I will take the time to learn this game in the hope of playing with others.

And of course, there's always the interplanetary travel thing. 🙂

Math Post – Odd Bell Curves

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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.